Croyle returns to practice

Sporting two separate shoulder braces to protect his injured joint, quarterback Brodie Croyle dressed out and participated in Tuesday's practice session.

Afterwards, he was philosophical about his ongoing shoulder problem. "It's just something I have to deal with the rest of the year," Croyle said.

Along with his full football pads, including the standard quarterback rib protectors, Croyle wore extra bracing under his shoulder pads. "I've got to deal with the 800 braces I've got on," he said wryly. "At least this is all my (equipment) right now. I hope they don't come up with something new."

Designed to prevent the joint from separating again, the braces obviously cut down on his natural throwing motion. "I'm trying to get used to it," Croyle acknowledged. "Today was the first day I had worn both of the braces (at the same time). They constrict you a little bit. I've got one brace that keeps (the joint) from going out downward and one that keeps (the joint) from going out upward. We're covering all areas."

Besides working through the rust from his forced layoff, Brodie Croyle must also adjust his normally fluid throwing motion due to the double shoulder bracing (Barry Fikes photo)

"The braces cut (my throwing motion) down a lot," Croyle continued. "I can't pull through with my left arm like I used to. Plus, it makes it more difficult to hand off. But I'm sure I'll get used to it by the end of the week."

Like an armored knight from medieval times, Croyle must have his "football armor" strapped on his body before he heads out to battle. "(Getting dressed) takes awhile--probably about 30 minutes," he said with a grim laugh. "It's bad. I've got three people dressing me."

Tide Head Coach Mike Shula said earlier that with the heavy bracing the doctors have said that there is essentially no danger that Croyle will injure the joint any worse than he already has. But no amount of orthopedic bracing can take away the pain. Croyle's ability to play--and to a degree his effectiveness as a quarterback--will depend in large part on the amount of pain he can tolerate.

"The pain is better," Croyle explained after Tuesday's practice. "It's not as sharp as it was, but it's definitely still there."

Which brings up the obvious question: will he play this Saturday against Ole Miss?

Without hesitation Croyle replied, "I want to go. We'll take it day-to-day, but if it's up to me I want to go. I'm fixing to go in there and meet with the doctors after practice. I don't know when they'll say I can or can't go. That's up to the doctors and coaches."

During football season Tuesday workouts are always the heaviest of the week, with the squad backing off more and more each successive session as game day approaches. Since re-injuring his left shoulder three weeks ago versus Arkansas, Croyle has been held out of all serious practice drills. But yesterday he was "back on the job."

"It felt pretty good," Croyle said after practice. "It definitely wasn't my best day, being my first day back. Physically I'm fine, but I'm rusty. The shoulder is still sore, and I've still got a couple of bumps and bruises. Hopefully I'll be ready to go (Saturday)."

With Croyle watching from the sideline, last week Brandon Avalos called the signals as Bama downed Southern Miss, 17-3. "It wasn't fun standing on the sideline and not playing, but I think it helped me physically," he said. Coach Shula said during his Tuesday press conference that he expected Avalos to get the majority of practice reps yesterday, but afterwards Croyle indicated differently.

"We both took our share (of reps)," Croyle said, "but I probably took a couple more, trying to get back in the rhythm. Brandon hasn't missed a week, and I've missed two. I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing right now, but if Brandon goes Saturday I'll definitely be by his side."

Not satisfied with his timing, Croyle even stayed behind after practice to get in more throws to his receivers. Among others, Triandos Luke, Dre Fulgham, Tyrone Prothro and Lance Taylor were running routes for their No. 1 quarterback.

Too bad Croyle can't use his no-contact practice jersey this Saturday.

"You can pretty much name them and they were out there unless they had class," Croyle said. "I was trying to get my timing back to where I was (before the injury), and I was trying to get used to (the braces).

"I don't know if I'm going to be able to throw it as hard as I used to, or if I'll have to use more touch. I'm trying to get used to everything again."

Given how bad his shoulder felt two weeks ago, Croyle said that working through a bit of rust in his throwing motion is not a significant problem. "I'm ten times better today than what I'd have been if I had played (last Saturday). I'm doing more now (in rehab). I couldn't pick my arm up a week ago. Now I'm in the weight room doing a couple of light dumbbell exercises. It's definitely feeling a lot better.

"But I'm still not back to healthy."

One writer suggested that Croyle ought to check with the SEC officials to see if they would let him wear his yellow, no-contact practice jersey versus the Rebels.

"That would make my day," he replied, only half joking.

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