P-Willie update

The good news regarding senior MLB Patrick Willis is that he fully expects to be ready to rumble after a tedious offseason rehab of his surgically repaired foot when the football season rolls around. The other news is that P-Willie is not sure if he'll be ready when August practice rolls around. Read about it inside.

When one interviews Ole Miss senior Middle Linebacker Patrick Willis these days, there is only one main question that's on everyone's mind.

Everyone - media included - knows all about his work ethic, his ability as one of the premiere linebackers in the nation, his leadership skills and everything else there is to know about the preseason All-American.

But what nobody knows - Patrick included - for sure is the condition of his foot, which was broken last season and surgically repaired in the offseason.

Willis missed spring training, as every Rebel on the planet knows, due to surgery aftermath/rehab. He has been rehabbing the foot ever since.

So, Patrick, about five weeks from the start of August practice, here is the $64,000 (maybe more) question: How is it?

"It's progressing. It's still not 100%, but it's going to get there," he said. "I'm just being patient and not doing anything that would set me back any.

"I've been running on it some, kind of easing into more activity on the foot, but I'm being careful. I'm not going to rush it."

A sub-question: Do you expect to be 100% by the time August practice starts?

"That's a tough question. I don't know yet. If I feel 100%, I will practice. If not, I won't. I won't force myself to go out there less than 100%," he explained. "Right now, it's kind of up in the air as to when I'll be ready. This injury requires patience, but the last thing I want, or anyone wants, is for me to rush things and re-injure the foot. Having to start all over again would really set me back."

Patrick, who plays and practices as hard as anyone who ever suited up in a Rebel uniform, and has played injured a lot of times in his career, has had to teach himself patience in this long rehab.

"It's hard. One of the biggest things my parents and the doctors have drilled into my head is that I have to be patient," he smiled. "It's going to come around.

"What messes with your mind some is whether or not the pain I'm going through in rehab is from the injury itself or from breaking up scar tissue and the normal stuff that happens in a successful rehab. There is always a little doubt lingering in your mind."

Patrick will go back to the doctors before camp begins to get more information on th healing process.

"I'm hoping I get a CAT scan and everything looks good structurally. Then I will know for sure it's just pain from the scar tissue and normal stuff in rehab. Once that is determined, for sure, I will be more relieved than I am now," Willis added. "I'm very positive about what's happening, but there's always some doubt mentally."

In the meantime, Patrick is going through a full dose of rehab, working in the weight room and attending all volunteer workout sessions (7-on-7 drills) this summer.

"I'm not out there actually doing 7-on-7, but I make the calls for the defense and I'm helping the younger guys while staying sharp mentally myself," Willis stated. "To do anything less would not show good character or leadership on my part."

Provided everything works out with the rehab of the foot, Patrick knows 2006 will be different for him than 2005.

He understands - due to the success he had last season - that he will be a marked man to opposing offense. Gameplans will be built with slowing him down in mind.

"I'm sure I will face double-teams and offenses trying to run away from me, but this is a team sport. I have great confidence in the guys in front of me, the other two LBs and the secondary," he closed. "I will play within the scheme, do what the coaches tell me to and do what I can to help us win and help us get to a bowl game.

"If opposing offenses are concentrating that much on me, that will help the team, so I'm fine with that."

While Willis wisely declined to make any rash declarations on a timeline of a healthy return to the practice/playing field, he did express optimism that everything would be fine, but it would require more patience.

That type of patience hasn't always been easy for him, but he's accepted it and understands the need for it now and is taking the right steps for a return to the field as quickly, and safely, as possible.

There's little way to predict an exact "when" on this deal - every person and every rehab is different, but what can be said definitively is that Patrick and those guiding him are taking the proper path to his successful return.

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