Thorpe's Rehab Nearing Completion

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Sophomore wide receiver and returner T.J. Thorpe hopes to receive full medical clearance by the end of November after breaking his left foot on the third day of training camp in August.

"Right now, I'm basically at the tail end of my recovery," Thorpe told reporters following Tuesday's practice. "I've been running around a lot, sprinting a lot, so I know I can sprint full speed. I'm at top speed. I can do a lot of things, however, they're still trying to take it slow since I'm not going to be playing this season."

The 6-foot, 195-pounder expects to be fully cleared within the next three weeks, according to doctor estimates. He's been on pace with the benchmarks the athletic training staff has set for him.

"Since Sunday I've been running full speed routes and cutting, doing a lot of different cutting progressions," Thorpe said. "Now I'm just waiting for the okay. Once I get another X-ray probably near the end of this month – hopefully it will be my last one – and then I'll get cleared to do full go with everything from here on out until next season."

While a decision to red-shirt has not officially been announced, Thorpe told his parents prior to the Oct. 13 game at Miami that if he didn't get on the plane, then there was no need to attempt to come back in 2012. The focus then shifted to rehab and getting healthy.

Thorpe described the last three months as mentally challenging in having to cope with not being able to play. He leaned on his parents for support, as well as various teammates – A.J. Blue, Gio Bernard, Reggie Wilkins, Landon Turner and Jabari Price – in helping guide him through the ordeal.

Thorpe suffered the break without contact while running a routine route. The Durham, N.C. product was listed as a backup wide receiver on the preseason depth chart, as well as a starter at both punt and kickoff return.

The sophomore earned accolades for his ability returning kickoffs as a freshman, earning finalist honors for the Johnny Rodgers Award, which goes to the nation's top returner. He was tabbed honorable mention All-ACC after leading the league with a 26.7 yards-per-return average.

Thorpe set a UNC record with 960 return yards in 2011, breaking Brandon Tate's 2007 mark.

Most observers had forgotten that Thorpe was the preseason favorite to land the punt return job, due to Gio Bernard's success in that role.

"It's funny, because [Bernard] always talked to me about, ‘Hurry up and get back, hurry up and get back, because I don't want to do it anymore,'" Thorpe said. "And I was like, ‘Well, you're doing it better than me, so I don't understand why you don't want to do it.'"

Thorpe is perfectly willing to let the punt return depth chart stay the same in 2013.

"If Gio comes back, he can have it," Thorpe said. "That's him. He's returned two of them, he's changed games, he's made plays. He hasn't dropped any that I know of, so that's him. I'll just stick with kick return, unless he does that, too."

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