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Sunday, August 12, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
Despite another setback, Deontae Cooper still determined to come back and play football
By Bob Condotta
Seattle Times staff reporter
Deontae Cooper figures that eventually fate will turn his way.
So while some might assume the Washington running back would be beaten down by the prospect of yet another rehab from an ACL injury — his third in three years — Cooper said Saturday he plans to forge full-speed ahead and return to the football field in 2013.
"Yeah definitely, definitely, definitely," he said when asked if he plans to play again. "Don't sleep on me. ... I'm going to be fine. I'm going to rehab fine like I did the other two, and I'm going to be right. I'm going to be physically in shape and be ready to go next year."
He thought he was ready to go for this season after having gotten clearance to return after missing last season with an ACL tear to his left knee suffered in the summer of 2011. That injury came as he was finishing rehabbing an ACL tear to his left knee that occurred in training camp in August 2010.
At the time of the first injury, Cooper was a true freshman who coaches had earmarked for significant playing time after he had impressed them throughout the previous spring (he graduated early from Citrus Hill High in Perris, Calif.) and the first few weeks of fall camp.
The practice Monday was his first real work since that initial injury, and he talked to reporters afterward about his excitement over being back on the field and showing coaches he was ready to rejoin the competition at tailback, where the Huskies need to replace the production of the departed Chris Polk.
Unbeknownst to Cooper, he had already suffered the injury that would end his season. Cooper said when he initially was hurt Monday — while taking a handoff in a seven-on-seven drill — he thought he had just strained his right calf.
"I made a plant and it was my calf and I was worrying about my calf," he said. "I've had so many knee injuries I was like 'It's my calf — I'm going to be fine.' Then as the days went on I started feeling my knee and I told the trainers, 'This feels like something serious.' So that's when I got the MRI and they told me I had a slight tear in my ACL."
That diagnosis came Wednesday night and elicited an outpouring of support throughout Husky nation. UW coach Steve Sarkisian said the news "kind of left me dismayed."
Cooper said he "teared up" when he first heard the news and admitted it's been tough to deal with the reality of another year on the sideline, and of rehab.
"It was hard the first time because I gave up so much from high school, came up here early," he said. "I think it's even harder coming off the two years. But I know how to do this — it's been two years, it's going to be a little bit lighter (because the injury) is not as severe on this side as it was on the left. It's going to be all right."
And again displaying the attitude that has so endeared him to teammates and others around the program, he said he hasn't bothered to spend much time wallowing in self-pity.
"I don't have a 'Why me? (moment),' " he said. "It's just unfortunate luck. But I can't be unlucky forever. I'm going to catch a break sooner or later."
• The Huskies went through their first two-a-day practice of fall camp Saturday with a helmets-only workout in the morning and then full pads in the afternoon. Then the team attended the Seahawks game against Tennessee, which included recent UW alums Jake Locker and Devin Aguilar for the Titans and Jermaine Kearse for the Seahawks. "It's a great team-bonding activity that we usually try to do every year," Sarkisian said. "Last year we went to the Mariners game, and so this year we get to go to the Seahawks game. ... For me, it's a way I can hopefully reward them for their hard work and give them something fun to do so they continually enjoy the experience of being here. For a bunch of these guys, it's the first time they will ever have been to an NFL football game, so hopefully we are giving them things to do that maybe they haven't done before."
• Another day, another injury to a linebacker as junior Thomas Tutogi, contending for playing time inside, went down midway through the afternoon practice with what Sarkisian said was a sprained knee. Sarkisian said on first glance it did not appear serious but that the knee would be examined to determine what is wrong. UW entered the day with just eight healthy linebackers due to other injuries and attrition.
• Freshman receiver Jaydon Mickens and redshirt freshman safety James Sample sat out the afternoon practice with groin injuries but Sarkisian said each could be back Monday when the team returns to the field after taking Sunday off.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta
2012 UW schedule All home games at CenturyLink Field. Date Opponent Time Sept. 1 San Diego St. 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at LSU 5 p.m. Sept. 15 Portland St. 1 p.m. Sept. 27 Stanford 6 p.m. Oct. 6 at Oregon TBA Oct. 13 USC TBA Oct. 20 at Arizona TBA Oct. 27 Oregon St. TBA Nov. 2 at California 6 p.m. Nov. 10 Utah TBA Nov. 17 at Colorado TBA Nov. 23 at WSU 12:30 p.m. All times subject to change
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