Kelley almost ready to return

Junior linebacker Braxton Kelley is glad Micah Johnson has made improvements while he has been out with an ankle injury, but Kelley is ready to get back on the practice field. "Hopefully I will be full speed by Thursday or Friday. I plan on playing in the opening game (Sept. 1 against Eastern Kentucky).

I probably won't start, but I want to make sure I am back in shape after not playing for two weeks and ready to go in that game," said Kelley, a two-year starter at middle linebacker.

"I am glad Micah is getting better, but I plan on getting better, too. I look at it as two positives. It hurts me right now not getting to play and that is a negative. But as long as I come in and prove that I can play, everything should be okay, especially with the way Micah has played." Kelley hurt his ankle during a team drill about two weeks ago when an offensive lineman fell on him.

"I won't say who did it. It just happened. It was an accident," he laughed and said. "He didn't mean to do it. It is just part of the game. You have to bounce back when you get hurt.

"Hopefully this won't be a big deal to catch up. I am still in the film room. I am still out here making reads with the rest of the team. I know the defense pretty well and all it takes to play it. I just have to get back to the physical part. I have the mental part down."

Kelley admits he's been anxious to practice and has tried to talk trainer Jim Madeleno into letting him on the field for several days.

"They won't allow me to practice. I respect them for that because I am pretty sure I really am not ready to go out there. I am trying to trust Jim Madaleno and when he sends me back out there, hopefully I am ready to play. And I will be because he won't risk putting players on the field to put themselves in worst position and get hurt," Kelley said.

Could not practicing for almost two weeks turn into a blessing later in the season because his body might be fresher from not taking the pounding in August?

"I know I am missing all of camp basically and I didn't have to go through a beating. Hopefully it will mean I am fresh later, but you can also look at the thing where I have not been playing at game speed and I have to do that to get ready for SEC play," Kelley said. "You don't get the same speed in the training room as you do on the field playing against guys that can really run and play the game. I need to get the intensity back and hopefully I can real fast since I have experience and know what it takes. So I don't think being out really is a blessing. I would rather be playing."

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