June 22, 2006
University, MS (CSTV U-WIRE) -- The key word is "patience" regarding the most important foot in Oxford.
After having surgery to fix his foot, Ole Miss standout middle linebacker Patrick Willis missed all of spring drills. Willis is hoping to be perfectly healthy for the start of camp in August, but he can't even guarantee he will be ready for week one yet.
"Its progressing, but it's not at 100 percent yet," Willis said. "It's feeling good though. I'm just being patient and hopefully by the first game it will be in good condition and have the agility back."
Playing with pain would be nothing new for Willis. He played most of last season with a cast protecting his broken middle finger and several games with a sprained knee. For now, there is no reason to rush back into action and risk further injury to his foot.
"In my mind I wanna be 100 percent," Willis said. "And my body wants to be 100 percent because what's another season if you're not 100 percent. I don't know, I guess it just depends on how I really feel at that point in time. I'm not gonna force myself to go back on a day and start when I'm not 100 percent."
It would be ideal for the Rebels to have Willis by August when full contact practices begin. At this point, no one is sure of when his return will be.
"It's still up in the air," Willis said. "In July I'm gonna try to step it up a little bit more, but the big thing is just being patient, instead of just hoping I can be ready."
Willis said there is a chance it won't be ready for the first game, but at the same time was optimistic it will be ready even before that. The hardest part right now is not knowing if the pain he is feeling is from the foot still being injured or is a normal part of the recovery process. It's been difficult waiting and erring on side of caution.
"That has been one the biggest things my parents have been trying to tell me and the doctors in Jackson," Willis said. "They said just be patient. One of big things I have a hard time with is when I ask myself is it pain from the surgery itself or is it pain from getting back into the movement and breaking up the scar tissue like that.
In my mind, I look at it like breaking up the scar tissue and stuff like that, but then there's the other side of it. I don't really know if I'm ready to be getting back into the physical activity or not.
I got to go back to the doctor and hopefully they can give me a CAT Scan and if it looks good, I can know it's just pain from the scar tissue."
Willis is the leader of the Rebels and has made sure that his presence is still felt among players and coaches throughout the spring.
"I'm here at every weight lifting we have, and I'm here at seven-on-seven," Willis said. "I'm making calls for the formation. I'm still just as much part of the team even though I'm not out there."
Willis will wait as long as it takes for his foot to be ready, so he can help the Rebels turn the football program around in 2006.
"I'm just ready to go into the system and play within the scheme and play the way 'coach O' wants me to play," Willis said. "And however my stats land they land, I just wanna go out there and help us win and hopefully we go back to a bowl game."
(C) 2006 Daily Mississippian via CSTV U-WIRE