Before Stanford's 2007 preseason training camp kicked off at the beginning of this month, the Cardinal already suffered a major blow when redshirt sophomore strong safety Bo McNally broke his right hand on July 19 during a special teams (punt block) drill during a summer practice. The only safety on Stanford's roster returning with any meaningful college experience in the defensive backfield, McNally had surgery on July 23 to insert pins into his hand.
Those pins were taken out last Monday, and this morning McNally made his first appearance in the Stanford secondary of this camp.
"I've been rehabbing and strengthening it up, and trying to convince the trainers to let me go," McNally says. The doctor cleared me this morning, and I got to go out there and play."
Today is the 15th day of the Cardinal's 20-day preseason camp, and their season opener is now less than two weeks away. It has been difficult for McNally, a high-energy teammate and playmaker, to sit back and watch the first 14 days of practices to prepare for the 2007 season.
"It's almost unbearable," he laments. "It's really frustrating to watch everybody getting better or trying to do everything we can for UCLA. When you're on the sideline watching, there is only so much you can do. I tried to distract myself by coaching the other players and helping out the young guys. I'm just glad to be back."
His teammates are equally excited to have McNally back on the field.
"It's awesome," exclaims redshirt sophomore and starting outside linebacker Clinton Snyder. "He didn't get to do the live periods, but it's really good to see him out there again. It's good to know that I've got him behind me back there."
"It was good to have him back out here today," echoes head coach Jim Harbaugh. "He caused a fumble. It was good to see him back out here."
McNally may have missed the first half of this month, but he expects to be participating in live contact soon and is anticipating being in the lineup on September 1.
"Yeah, I think so," he says. "We're going to progress throughout this week, with more and more contact. I should be able to go full-contact within a few days. I'm definitely going to work toward coming back for UCLA."
A heavy wrap job of two casts protected McNally's right hand this morning. He has a removable hard cast underneath, with a soft cast wrapped over it.
"The little contact I had today didn't bother me at all," McNally reports. "The pins were not an incision. They didn't cut open my hand. They just kind of stuck the pins through, so it's not much of a wound down there."
"Right now my hand is a little restricted. I have my pinky and my ring finger all taped up," he adds. "The goal is to have just a smaller, soft cast that frees up my fingers by UCLA."
While McNally's return to the field is the headline event of today, the first day of the last week of this training camp, it was even more notable that he took a number of first-team defensive repetitions. That is a remarkable feat, made even more impressive by how well McNally handled himself in this morning's practice.
"I was actually surprised," he admits. "I didn't think I would be able to. I thought it would take me a little to get into it. But I felt like I read most of my keys pretty well. Obviously it's inevitable that I'm going to make a few mistakes, but I'm going to look at film and correct those tonight."
We are not surprised, however. Stanford has stomached more than its fair share of injuries this camp and had players a-plenty stuck on the sideline. McNally has stood head and shoulders above his injured teammates by his proactive approach to practices while out of action. He has been frequently standing on the field, deep behind the defensive backs, taking mental repetitions and talking with secondary coach Clayton White or defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. McNally has done everything possible to hit the ground running, once today's medical clearance came, and that gives him the best chance possible to help his team as soon as possible.
"No doubt about it. I made that point to the team and used him as an example," Harbaugh offers. "Through injury, that's the way you're supposed to do it: follow every drill mentally, take reps and do everything you can to get back as quickly as possible. And be ready to play when you get back. He does it better than anybody else we have on our team."
Missing the end of July's summer practices plus the first two weeks of this camp could also have put McNally out of shape, but he has aggressively pursued physical conditioning to match his mental work.
"I've been working hard the last couple weeks, just running cardio and running sprints between periods when I get a chance," McNally says. "I passed Coach [Shannon] Turley's conditioning test. It's the hardest conditioning test in the NCAA, so I think I'm in good shape."
With Bo McNally back in the defensive backfield, Stanford today looks to be in better shape, as well.
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