The sigh of relief won't really come until Greyson Gunheim takes the field again.
But the news from Montlake, for one of the few times in recent seasons, was about as positive as could have been hoped for Monday.
Gunheim, a junior defensive end who might be the Huskies' most valuable defensive player, will be out only one to three weeks, according to coach Tyrone Willingham. Gunheim sprained the MCL in his right knee during a scrimmage Saturday.
The injury occurred during a rare practice that was open to the media, and reporters saw Gunheim go down in a heap while playing on the kickoff coverage team, then need assistance to get off the field.
Gunheim said Monday "when it first happened, it was pretty scary," in part because he's never missed so much as a drill in practice at UW due to injury.
"You get banged up out there all the time and usually you get up and you'll be fine," he said. "But when I hurt it, I couldn't really feel my leg from the knee down. It was a whole lot of pain. I thought it was pretty serious."
But examinations revealed it to be nothing major — an MRI was deemed unnecessary — and Gunheim predicted, "I think I'll be ready for San Jose State."
UW camp box
What happened: The Huskies held two practices: full pads in the morning, helmets and shoulder pads in the afternoon.
Gold standard: Winners of the gold jersey were Roy Lewis (defense), for his play in Saturday's scrimmage, and Brandon Ala (defense), for his play in the first practice Monday.
The Butler did it: Willingham said freshman middle linebacker Donald Butler has been so impressive that he has become a serious contender for the starting job at that spot along with senior Tahj Bomar and sophomore Trenton Tuiasosopo. Butler is a 6-1, 210-pounder from Sacramento, Calif.
Injury report: Willingham clarified that WR Cody Ellis (clavicle) will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis but shouldn't be out long. Among those new to the injury list are RB Shelton Sampson (thigh bruise), OT Erick Berglund (foot) and PK Michael Book (knee), but Willingham said none of the injuries are serious. CB Dashon Goldson (ankle) remains limited. The news is better for DT Jordan White-Frisbee (foot), who worked in both sessions, Willingham said.
The Huskies play the Spartans in their Sept. 2 season opener at Husky Stadium.
Gunheim, in fact, said he has felt improvement since Saturday.
"I've been doing a lot of rehab and it's been getting better quickly," he said. He was in uniform for Monday's practice but stayed away from most drills.
Willingham, as might have been expected, was a little more cautious, saying it could be three weeks before he's back, which might mean Gunheim would be out until the Sept. 9 game at Oklahoma.
Gunheim has started 18 of 22 games since arriving at UW in 2004 and was named the team's best defensive lineman last season when he made five sacks and 38 tackles.
"He's going to have a great year when he gets healthy," said UW defensive line coach Randy Hart.
Until then, other players will have to fill in, with senior Brandon Ala likely moving onto the first unit at defensive end opposite redshirt freshman Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.
Gunheim's absence will also give Caesar Rayford, Darrion Jones and Walt Winter a shot at more prominent roles.
Rayford, a junior from Spanaway, was particularly impressive in Saturday's scrimmage with two sacks. Rayford came to UW with high expectations, but has had trouble putting on weight and strength. He's listed at 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, up from 6-6 and 225 of a year ago — though Hart said he's still not as large as desired.
Willingham said Ala and Rayford "have been much improved in their play. We've always felt good about both of those guys and their ability to come off the edge. But they seem to have added a more physical dimension to their play and that is needed."
That Gunheim was hurt on a kickoff drill caused some to wonder whether having possibly the team's best defensive player on special teams is a good idea.
But Gunheim said he has been on virtually every special team since he has arrived and has no problem with it, and Hart and Willingham each defended it, as well.
"You want to put your best players on the field, and that would be any position, any team that would go," Willingham said. "Did Reggie Bush play special teams?"
Bush, a former USC running back, won the Heisman Trophy last season in part for his work returning kicks.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com