Max Tuioti-Mariner was back on the practice field in pads and a helmet today trying to get back in the swing of things after months of rehabilitation following a knee injury in winter conditioning.
There is no clear cut time table for Tuioti-Mariner's return to action on game days, but he said he hopes to play this season because he wants to help his team. The fact that he is participating in practices on a limited basis at this point could lead to a return to action as soon as the start of Big 12 Conference play at Texas in a little more than two weeks or maybe the Kansas game in Folsom Field in mid-October.
"Being back at practice was really fun," he said. "Not only just getting to see but being able to go in like everyone else feels good.
Tuioti-Mariner said his knees feel good and team athletic trainers have told him he is right where he is supposed to be in the recovery process.
Tuioti-Mariner has suffered three torn anterior cruciate ligament injuries on his knees in the past 21/2 years. He suffered one injury in the spring before his senior year of high school. He came to Colorado last summer and earned immediate playing time as a true freshman, but suffered another torn ACL on the opposite knee in practice before the Florida State game last season.
Tuioti-Mariner was well on his way to full recovery from that torn ligament when he re-tore the other ACL during a winter conditioning cone drill prior to spring ball this year.
Coach Dan Hawkins estimated during the summer that Tuioti-Mariner could be ready to play by early October. That time line appears to be on track.
"Either way is good," Tuioti-Mariner said. "If I play, I get to play. If I redshirt, I get to play later on. I'm going to do what coaches Hawkins says, but I really want to play though.
"Then again, I don't want to pressure my knees. I don't want to fall into another injury."
Tuioti-Mariner flirted with the idea of taking his Mormon mission over the next two years and returning to the team in 2011. He ultimately decided to postpone that because he wanted to focus on healing and helping his teammates. He said the mission is still a priority for him, but it might come after his college career if over.
The Buffs also welcomed back tackle Bryce Givens, who missed the win over Wyoming because of personal reasons. Coach Dan Hawkins said Givens will play against West Virginia on Oct. 1. Givens was not available for interviews.