Pennington may have reason to smile

When Spencer Pennington first injured his right shoulder, the initial assumption by everyone involved was that he'd need surgery--thus ending his 2003 season.

But Tuesday afternoon there he was, throwing the ball around with Bama's other quarterbacks.

No one should get ahead of themselves. Pennington wasn't wearing pads. And after warm-ups were finished his throwing for the day was done. But just the fact that he was able to sling the ball around made him feel immensely better.

Spencer Pennington started for Alabama against Georgia. (AP Photo)

"I came out today and warmed up with the guys," Pennington said after practice Tuesday. "Then I went in with Coach Pollard to do some therapy. I'm feeling a lot better."

Pennington spent most of practice working with Head Strength Coach Ben Pollard on rehab exercises and conditioning. But just a few weeks back all he could do at practice was ride the exercise bike. Then he wore his right arm in a sling, designed to immobilize the limb and prevent any movement in or around the injured shoulder joint.

But Tuesday the only thing out of the ordinary he was wearing was a smile.

"It started feeling a little bit better last week," Pennington said. "I threw about 20 balls last week. The doctor said it would be all right to start working out a little bit."

Subbing at the time for Brodie Croyle, who is also dealing with an injured shoulder, Pennington started the Georgia game. It was his first collegiate start--indeed, his first extensive game action for Alabama. So no one was surprised that Pennington struggled somewhat. But he did lead the Tide on an impressive second-quarter touchdown drive, giving hope for the second half. But in the third quarter a rushing Bulldog defender separated Pennington's shoulder, ending his game and potentially his season.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Avalos finished that game and took every snap the next week versus Southern Miss. With Pennington sidelined, the Tide has only two eligible scholarshipped quarterbacks on the squad.

Once just assumed to be out for the season, Pennington has been throwing the ball some recently.

It's still possible that surgery will be required. Consulting with famed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews of HealthSouth in Birmingham, Pennington will do whatever is best for his long-term health. But getting back in time to play again this season would be a welcome bonus.

"Last week the doctors put off the final decision for another week, and that was good news at the time," Pennington said. "I'm going to meet with the doctors again this week and maybe find out for sure what's going on."

Pennington is a young man with plenty of games left in his athletic career, so if an operation is what's needed to repair his shoulder--that's what he'll do.

But Tuesday at least, he was smiling.

"The way the shoulder is feeling right now--I'm already able to throw the football--I'm thinking I'm going to be able to play by Mississippi State," Pennington said. "It's looking real good."

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