Jake Locker gets one more day to convince Washington’s medical staff that he’s healthy enough to take the field with a broken rib in the final home game of his career.
A final decision on Locker’s availability for Thursday night’s game against UCLA will be coming on Tuesday, coach Steve Sarkisian said at his weekly news conference on Monday.
“I’ve expected to play from the beginning,” Locker said after practice on Monday night. “Like I said, we’ll trust our doctors. They’ve done a great job until this point. Nothing has changed from that standpoint.”
Locker did not play on Nov. 6 at No. 1 Oregon after he suffered a broken rib a week earlier against Stanford. Locker was cleared to return to practice on Saturday.
“They’re assessing him daily, not only actively throughout practice, how he is moving, but how he responds the next day,” Sarkisian said. “In a perfect world I would love to know earlier from a game planning perspective but we’ll get a definitive answer tomorrow.”
The challenge for Sarkisian has been giving Locker enough work in practice to push his threshold and let the team’s medical staff make an accurate determination of Locker’s health without giving him too much work.
Mostly, Locker split reps with redshirt freshman Keith Price during most of the Huskies’ practices over the weekend and preparations began for the rare Thursday matchup.
“I think he’s performed pretty well. I’ve thought his movement’s been good. We’ve done things out of the pocket with him. I have to put enough out there for them to assess him as well as for us to assess him,” Sarkisian said. “So I can’t just leave him in the pocket and have him be a robot. I have to make him do things, a variety of throws and runs to see where he’s at. But I thought he’s performed well.”
Locker was a spectator against the Ducks, watching Price make his college debut against the top-ranked team in the country. Price completed 14 of 28 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown against the Ducks.
“Anytime you have to sit out and watch, it’s tough,” Locker said. “As a competitor and as a football player, you always want to be out there. You’ve got to do your best to be out there every Saturday.”
Sarkisian said he’s been impressed with how Price has approached the last week of practice, making sure he stays ready should Locker not be cleared to play.
“I think as a young player sometimes that’s the challenge — you start one week and then it looks like the starter is coming back, so now you can sit back and relax and not get yourself mentally prepared to play again,” Sarkisian said. “But to Keith’s credit, and [offensive coordinator] Doug Nussmeier’s credit in getting him prepared to play, he’s shown in these last two days of practice that he’s ready to go.”
Sarkisian also announced that Thursday’s game will have a “blackout” theme. It’s been rumored for months that the Huskies would wear black uniforms against the Bruins, and that was confirmed on Monday by linebacker Cort Dennison, who let slip the black attire. The end zones of Husky Stadium have also been painted black for the game.