Bill Stull, who missed the Notre Dame game after suffering a concussion and neck injury the previous week against Rutgers, had his cell phone jammed with calls and messages from the Pittsburgh offensive linemen. It seems that the group reached out and touched Stull incessantly since the injury.
"All my linemen, throughout the week, were calling me,'' Stull said, "waking me up, actually, in the morning to see how I was doing. Not, are you playing this week? But just wanting to know how I'm doing physically. And that means a lot to me, to know that my teammates care. We all care about each other, and under these circumstances it's nice to know that.''
Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt settled the issue immediately after the Notre Dame game and again during his weekly press conference Monday. As long as Stull can get through practice this week, he'll start when the No. 25 Panthers (6-2, 2-1) face Louisville (5-3, 1-2) Saturday at noon at Heinz Field.
"He's been cleared to play, and he came in and worked out,'' Wannstedt said. "Once he gets out on the field and he actually gets involved full speed, we'll see how it goes. (But) it's full speed ahead (this week).
"If he was healthy enough to play, and he thought that, and the doctors thought that, then he would have played (last week). Big East versus Notre Dame, that wasn't a factor in the thinking at all. It was solely about his health and how Billy was feeling.''
Stull spoke to the media Tuesday morning and was feeling much better.
"I feel good, a lot better than what I was,'' Stull said. "The headaches are gone. I just worked out for the first time (Tuesday), actual lifting with Buddy and James (with) no headaches, no nausea, no dizziness, no nothing. So, I'm just getting ready to practice (Tuesday).
"It was just a matter of when would that calm down, and once that happened how much practice time I would have gotten. ... They pretty much made the decision that without me actually practicing last week, I really didn't think there was much of a chance for me to play.
"(But) I don't think there's any doubt that I'm going to be ready to play,'' Stull added. "The big test for me was to lift (Tuesday), run around a little bit and go on the bike and actually lift weights for a while and see how I felt after that. I don't have any lingering effects of any sort.''
Stull said all the support from Wannstedt, the coaching staff and his teammates has helped him move forward from the incident, which he has little memory about despite watching video from the Rutgers game.
"I just remember that I was a little ticked off that I had some pressure, because we worked during the week on it,'' Stull said. "They had that (defense) where they look like they're going to bring max pressure, but then they back out. I made a gap call, and it was kind of loud. ... I tried to get the ball off and hope that someone could get open quicker than they should.
"As soon as I threw it, I didn't want to get a sack, but I got away from a direct hit. I lost my balance and remember getting hit in the back of the head. The next thing I remember was Jason Pinkston over me asking me if I was all right. I couldn't really respond. It's the weirdest thing I've been a part of and one of the scariest things.''
Stull noted that the saw his head snap forward for the first time during footage from the game on television later that night, and that cleared up why he was in a hospital with his neck in a brace. This was the second time in Stull's football career that he was knocked out in a game. The last time was while he played for Seton LaSalle High School.
"I was told that (LeSean McCoy's) heel hit the back of my head,'' Stull said. "That's when I saw my neck snap forward, and it honestly felt like somebody just said for me to hold my head still so they could kick me as hard as they could. In high school ... I was able to play the next week. It was just a nice little concussion. There was no neck injury or anything like that.
"This was different, and drastic measures were needed to check on it when I told them that my neck hurt. They didn't want me to move, just in case, so that's what happened. I don't believe I'll think about it. I'm actually upset with myself that I had to sit out a week, so I'm not going to keep things like that in my head. ... I know what's at risk here. We control our own destiny.
"I really want to be part of that,'' Stull added. "Everyone wants that. We have a good thing going right now, and I know what's at stake. Let's just put it like that. ... Except for my head, I really haven't felt this great in a while. I know I've been pretty banged up here and there, but that comes with the territory. (So), in the long run, I guess it was good that I didn't play last week.''
Stull's viewpoint is the norm for the Panthers this season, and that's something that's markedly different from last year's squad, according to the quarterback.
"Mentally, we're already physically tough, but ... we've changed drastically mentally from last year,'' Stull said. "I don't know if we would have won that (Notre Dame) game last year, a couple other games this year, too.
"But that's how different our team is. We're much more tough mentally going into the fourth quarter. We're a second-half team. We get all our mistakes out in the first half and find a way to get it done in the second half.''
And that should bode well for the Panthers as the regular season reaches the homestretch.
Bill Stull Ready To Go
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