Battered and Bruised, Leak Remains Optimistic

He's been sacked 21 times and he's sprained his shoulder so badly that he missed one full week of practice and then took an anti-inflammatory shot to play in the Mississippi State game. He's coming off one of his poorest passing performances of his career but Chris Leak isn't going to dwell on the past. He's fully focused on what's up next for the Florida Gators.

In the days since Florida lost to LSU, 21-17 in Baton Rouge, Leak has come under a great deal of criticism. His season numbers aren't that bad --- 126-214 for 1,575 passing yards and 10 touchdowns --- but in the past two road games against ranked teams and highly regarded defenses, he has not played particularly well. Against Alabama in Tuscaloosa he was 16-37 for 187 yards and against LSU he was 11-30 for 107 yards. He hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in either of those games.

He sprained his shoulder in the Alabama game and played even though he was in tremendous pain. He missed practice in the week before the Mississippi State game and even though he had an outstanding second half, he missed quite a few passes that normally he hits on the numbers. He played the LSU game without pain. He said he took an anti-inflammatory shot before the game (not cortisone) simply as a precaution.

"My shoulder is fine," said Leak after Tuesday's practice. "I took the shot just for precaution, that's all."

Leak is confident that Florida's offense will work. The offense has come under plenty of criticism because it has misfired in the big games on the road. Even though Florida scored 17 points Saturday in Baton Rouge, the points came after turnovers when the Gators were working on a short field. He says that the offensive difficulties are not the result of any one major problem but instead, they an accumulation of several small problems.

It's the little things here and there," he said. "Those are the things we have to correct. Those little things win big time ball games and those are the things we are trying to correct."

Due to the heavy pressure he's been getting from the pass rush, Leak has rushed his throws even to the point where he's had some mechanical issues in the past three weeks. He's thrown some off his back foot and quarterbacks Coach Dan Mullen says that he's had a tendency to try to aim the ball rather than simply cut loose with his throws.

Leak doesn't see this as a long term problem, just a mini-slump which has it origins in the blitz pressure that is causing him to unload on passes long before he's ready to throw. He said if he gets his feet set, you see a tremendous difference in the way he throws the football.

"When you have pressure like that it's pretty hard to set your feet and throw," he said. "When the line gives you time to set your feet and throw, you see the results are pretty good because the receivers have time to get into their routes. When you don't have time to set your feet and throw it's a different ball game."

Harassed quarterbacks, he will tell you, don't always make great throws but they have to make the kind of plays that won't hurt their team.

"Even the pros have to go through it," said Leak. "Even as good as Donovan McNabb's feet are you see him and sometimes he has to get out of the pocket in a hurry. It happens in the pros and at all levels of football. It's something you have to prepare for and as a quarterback you have to be sharp at it. You just have to try to make the safe play because sometimes the defense does win.

He said he's not going to allow himself to get down because of the poor game against LSU. Instead he has put the last game behind him. Now he is working hard in practice this week to get his game in shape for a date with fourth-ranked Georgia in Jacksonville, October 29.

"You have those games and it happens at all levels," he said. "You have to regroup and you have to keep your composure. The main thing is not to panic and keep on playing."

INJURY REPORT: Brandon Siler and Todd McCullough are being held out of practice this week for minor injuries that should heal in plenty of time for the Georgia game, October 29. Siler is nursing a dinged up ankle.

Wide receiver Jemalle Cornelius apparently is making good progress with his high ankle sprain. He was seen leaving practice walking comfortably and without any noticeable limp. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald practiced in full pads Tuesday as well.

Tight end Markell Thompson, who fractured his ankle back in August, is walking without a boot now. He's walking with an ankle brace. There is no indication when he will be in shape and ready to play.

MEYER ON THE LOSS: Coach Urban Meyer admitted after practice that he's not gotten a lot of sleep since the loss to LSU. In the aftermath of the loss, he's heard the criticism from Florida's very demanding fans. He's heard all the talk about what's wrong with the Gators from disgruntled fans who are burning up the radio talk shows and the message boards with their critiques.

"Anytime that you lose that's when everyone starts looking what's going on, what's wrong, there's gotta be problems," Meyer said. "We lost a football game. I made a comment to the team after the Tennessee win that now everybody wants a piece of you and to remember who was there at 6 a.m. when you were training and to take care of each other. When you fail everybody wants a piece of you. That's athletics and that's college football at this level."

Meyer said he's not the type to take moral victories from losing.

"I'm appreciative of the effort because there were some great efforts in that game," he said. "So you take something from the great efforts. What value do you have in the loss? Hopefully that they don't want to lose any more and that it stings."

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