The small laceration on his finger required a bandage, but there was no way the cut was going to keep linebacker Braxton Kelley off the practice field this week. "It's nothing. I've been waiting too long for this to bother me," Kelley said.
Compared to the rehabiliation he went through with his injured knee, the small cut was nothing to even slow Kelley down. He missed UK's final four games last year because of the injury and knows he has to battle to win back his starting spot at middle linebacker.
"The knee is holding up real well right now. I think I am pretty much cleared for everything according to the trainers and doctor. They've said I can do anything in camp," Kelley said. "I thought all along I would be back now. I try not to let anything hold me down too long. I felt if I pushed for what I wanted, it would work out."
He was participating in 7-on-7 workouts during the summer when he knew he probably should not have been. However, once he was able to run, he wanted to go full speed. If there was any doubt about whether he was ready to play, teammates got the answer they needed during a 7-on-7 drill with Eastern Kentucky.
"I wasn't even supposed to be doing that. One of the Eastern players said something about how I would have missed that tackle in a real game. The next play, I just let him know that I was a pretty sure tackler. I just took him down," Kelley said. "I was just trying to see what I could do. It was the first time I had made contact since the injury. With the guy talking and my adrenaline going, I just pretty much forgot about the knee and hit him. I probably did the wrong thing, but I did it and knew then the knee was going to be fine."
Kentucky could also be "fine" at linebacker this season. Ben McGrath filled in well last year at middle linebacker when Kelley was hurt. Freshman Micah Johnson could also be ready to play that spot just as Kelley was a year ago.
"That's a great problem to have. In the SEC, you need a lot of linebackers. The games are long and in the fourth quarter, the best three linebackers need to be on the field when the game is on the line to make the best plays to take over a game. If you are rested, you can do that," Kelley said. "Whatever it takes to win, you have to do it. If some of us don't get to play as much, that's a coaching decision. We feel like whatever makes us successful, you should do it. And having more players is a luxury that could really help us this year."
Kelley glad to be playing again
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