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Originally published Wednesday, August 20, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Huskies quarterback says he'll be ready for Oregon opener

Washington Huskies quarterback Jake Locker, back from a hamstring injury, says he'll take it slow in practice but expects to play in the Aug. 30 football opener against the Oregon Ducks.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Washington quarterback Jake Locker doesn't really know or care if he remains limited in practice today, tomorrow, the rest of this week or next week.

Aug. 30 in Eugene, Ore., is his only concern now.

And his status that day, he said, won't be a concern.

Asked Tuesday if he'll be 100 percent for the season opener against the Ducks, Locker said, "I don't expect to be anything less."

For that reason, Locker is fighting his instincts to let it rip in practice, even after finally getting the OK to return this week. He participated in his second day of full-pads practice Tuesday since suffering what the team officially called a strained left hamstring in a practice Aug. 7. He was sidelined until Monday.

Tuesday, in his first public comments since returning, he said he's still limited in what he can do and for now, won't try to force his return to full speed.

"I don't want to do anything that's going to possibly re-injure it or push me back any," Locker said. "So when I feel comfortable with it, I will [go full speed]. If that's Saturday the 30th, then that's what it will be."

Locker said he has had no setbacks in his rehabilitation.

"I haven't had any pain," he said. "They want me to do everything I'm doing to do it pain-free, and that was the case [Monday]. I'm not really allowed to open up and really sprint yet. We'll see day by day when I'm able to do that. But besides that I feel really good."

Asked if he thought he could "open it up" Locker said, "I feel like I could, but it's not necessary at this point."

A big test could come Thursday, when the team is expected to hold its final full-scale scrimmage of fall camp. Oregon preparations begin in earnest after that, though UW coach Tyrone Willingham reiterated that caution will be the watchword for the next two weeks.

"We know hamstrings can take some time, but we've said all along it will be day-to-day, steady progress with him, and I thought for what he did [Monday] he did pretty good," Willingham said.

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"The key thing is to have him as close to full speed as possible [for Oregon]. Even if he had not had a hamstring injury, the chances of most of the guys being 100 percent for game day is kind of remote. There is always something nagging you or pulling you back."

Washington offensive coordinator Tim Lappano said last week that the most important thing for Locker was to get back by game week to re-establish timing with the team's young group of receivers.

Locker said he doesn't think his time away — 11 days and 12 practices — will have much of an impact on that.

"I got a chance to throw all the seven-on-seven stuff [last week], so hopefully the next couple of days I'll get comfortable with that again," he said.

Notes

• Ducks coach Mike Bellotti said Monday the quarterback race between sophomores Nate Costa and Justin Roper was "too close to call" and that the team might not name a starter until next week.

• Bellotti said this week that the only Ducks sure to miss the UW game are receiver Drew Davis (tonsillectomy) and DE Dominic Glover (back). Davis was a second-teamer heading into camp, Glover a deep reserve.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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