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November 16, 2010

Huskies hope to get healthy Locker back for UCLA

No matter how strong willed Jake Locker is, there are some matters beyond his control.

Locker came off the practice field inside gusty Husky Stadium Monday night, feeling good about his health and cautiously optimistic about his chances of playing in the final home game of his decorated football career with the Washington Huskies (3-6) Thursday night against UCLA (4-5).

The official word on Locker's playing status, however, was expected to come Tuesday when the team's medical staff was to determine if his cracked rib is healed enough to withstand the impact of playing against the Bruins.

He sat out the Huskies' 53-16 loss to Oregon then was kept out of practice for a week until returning on Saturday.

Coach Steve Sarkisian said Monday night that Locker continued to look strong in practice but he would have to await the final word from team doctors.

The Huskies must win their final three games to become bowl eligible.

"I thought he looked good," Sarkisian said. "He showed some things from a movement perspective that I was very encouraged by. His ability to change direction and make some throws, obviously in these elements as well, was very impressive."

Yet after Tuesday's practice, Sarkisian still wasn't able to make an announcement about whether his senior quarterback would play and indicated that he might not let the media know before Thursday night's game.

Doctors were to evaluate Locker after Tuesday's practice, Sarkisian said.

Then less than an hour later, Sarkisian announced via Twitter that Locker would start against the Bruins.

The elements that Locker and the rest of the Huskies faced in practice Monday night were extreme, and came during the same early evening hours that they'll be playing against UCLA.

Gusts of more than 35 mph pounded Husky Stadium, knocking over all eight benches on the sideline. One stronger gust lifted two heavier fiberglass benches and blew them powerfully on to the field.

"I saw it, yeah," Sarkisian said. "I just wanted to make sure (wide receiver) Jordan Polk wasn't flying with them."

Players had fun with the wind. During the gust that carried the benches on to the field, players hooted and hollered as they dodged a flying garbage can.

Quarterbacks Keith Price, who started against Oregon, Nick Montana and Locker had to throw tight spirals to avoid their passes getting held up in the wind. With the wind at their backs, most of their deep throws sailed long.

"I'll tell you what, I thought all in all, he and Keith and the receivers for 35-mile-an-hour winds that was a pretty impressive performance," Sarkisian said. "They did a nice job. The forecast doesn't look like this is what it will be like from a wind standpoint Thursday but it showed me a lot.''

The forecast is calling for cooler temperatures with the possibility of rain.

The conditions matter little to Locker. The senior quarterback just wants to get back on the field.

He can't imagine missing Senior Night and his final home game.

"I can't imagine not playing on any night," he said.

"I'm not going to make it any bigger than it is. It's another game on our schedule. I want to be out there as bad as anybody."

It's not up to him.

"If they don't think he can handle the physical nature of a Pac-10 football game, they're not going to clear him to play," Sarkisian said Monday night. "That's the reality of the situation."

"We'll trust our doctors," Locker said. "They've done a great job until this point. Nothing has changed from that standpoint."

Note: This story was edited after Tuesday's practice.


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