With Notre Dame’s veterans on campus for summer school and workouts, the South Bend Tribune‘s Eric Hansen caught up with Irish head coach Brian Kelly to get a status update on some important members of his team. And it appears that there’s positive news to report on linebacker Jarrett Grace‘s recovery from a badly injured right leg.
Grace broke his leg in four places against Arizona State last season in the Shamrock Series game, a serious injury to his right fibula that’s taken multiple procedures to repair. And while an additional surgery this spring looked like a setback that could’ve kept Grace off the field for all of 2014, Kelly reports that Grace is on the mend and advancing on a time table that has the team’s medical staff very happy.
“He had a real good X-ray the other day,” Kelly told Hansen. “He’s in great spirits and progressing very well. Obviously, the next few weeks are going to be key for him as he ups his movement. He’s probably in the best place that he’s been in a few months. Everything looks like he’s making the kind of progress he needs to make towards August.”
That Grace has the possibility to contribute to this team in August is amazing, considering where he was this spring, when he walked with a pronounced limp almost six months after the injury. Kelly has talked candidly about Grace’s recovery process, including the additional surgery this spring that was performed to help heal the damaged bone, and it appears that things are advancing well enough to give the linebacker a chance to play.
What Grace will actually do in August remains to be seen. But with senior walk-on Joe Schmidt and incoming freshman Nyles Morgan the only viable options to play inside linebacker, getting anything from Grace would be a huge bonus and a wonderful lift for a player that’s worked very hard to return from a setback that seemed career threatening.
Even after missing the 15 spring practices used to install Brian VanGorder’s new defensive, the Irish head coach didn’t sound concerned about Grace’s ability to catch on to a very different system. He was more worried about how the injury will effect the mindset of the Irish linebacker.
“Jarrett Grace has played a lot of football and has a great understanding of the game,” Kelly said. “So I’m not concerned about him (playing catch-up). My biggest concern will be, when does he gain that confidence back where he’s not thinking about the leg?
“And that won’t happen until he goes into camp and has the first tackle and sticks his nose in there and gets up and says, ‘Oh, I’m OK. I didn’t get hurt.’ To me, when guys have to come back from big injuries, it’s always been that confidence factor that’s the biggest hurdle.”
Grace played six games for the Irish last year at inside linebacker, in the starting lineup for three after replacing Manti Te’o at inside linebacker. After a slow start to the season, the rising senior had 41 tackles before the injury.