On what amounted to a black eye of a day for Purdue football, the Boilermakers took the field Friday afternoon while wide receiver Selwyn Lymon lay in a hospital bed and safety Torri Williams went suspended.
Lymon is now listed in "fair" condition at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center after an early morning attack that saw him stabbed in the chest; Williams was arrested shortly thereafter on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, earning him an indefinite banishment from the team.
Both incidents loomed large over the Boilermakers' third session of spring ball.
"It was pretty awkward coming out knowing exactly why Selwyn wasn't here," running back Jaycen Taylor said. "We had to suck it up and go ahead and practice, then check up on him after. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't want us to miss a day."
Receiver Greg Orton — Lymon's roommate and friend — was one of several players scheduled to visit Lymon in the hospital following practice.
"We're just going to have to come closer together," Orton said. "We're obviously a family and now he's down. We just have to pray for him and hope he gets better."
Following practice, Coach Joe Tiller was met by an inordinate number of camera crews, in town to cover a story that's not just gone state-wide, but nationwide, as well.
Prior to talking with the media, Tiller admonished his team in its post-practice huddle for its behavior and decision-making, following a night of angst that obviously included more players than those who made the news.
Both the attack on Lymon and Williams' arrest occurred in the early morning hours, between 2 a.m. and 3:30 a.m.
"It's a school night, and we have practice the next day, so where are our heads? What kind of commitment do we have?" Tiller said. "Are we going to offer lip-service to it or are we going to be serious about what we're trying to get done? We'll see."
Tiller said he challenged his seniors to step up as leaders, as well.
"We've got a good group of kids, and I particularly like our seniors. When you challenge the leadership on your team if you have a good group of seniors (the team) will close ranks and police themselves. On good teams, players police themselves. Coaches don't have to police them."
As for the individual incidents, Tiller has already suspended the already-sidelined Williams — recovering from a football injury — indefinitely, calling him "a player I've already had issues with in the past." Thus, the swift punishment.
In other cases, Tiller said he's doing his "detective work" to determine who else needs to be punished and how severely.
Tiller was asked if more suspensions might come down.
"Absolutely," he said. "I'm just trying to get information."
Later, he was asked if scholarships might be revoked.
He said no — sort of.
"But," he added, "I might find out something that might suggest I'll do that, but not right now."
As for Lymon, whose condition improved steadily throughout the day after he was originally listed in critical, but stable, condition, Tiller expressed exasperation, offering little in the way of sympathy for his felled junior.
When a TV crew from Lymon's native Fort Wayne asked Tiller how important Lymon's return to the team is, Tiller practically scoffed.
"He's not very important right now," Tiller said, "because of his behavior and the decisions and choices he makes. This is not the first time I've had some questions about his motives, and probably won't be the last."
This is the second serious non-football injury Lymon's sustained since joining the team in August. In October, he was nearly blinded after taking a pellet to his eye while firing air-powered guns with teammates and others late at night.
Tiller said that were no team rules in place prohibiting players from going out on the town .
"I never have (had such rules) during spring football," Tiller said, "but I never anticipated I'd have to have them.
"Apparently, I do."
That doesn't mean just yet, however, that such rules will be implemented.
"I'm not going to over-react to anything yet," Tiller said. "I'm still trying to get information."
There was football practice today, too
Friday was the Boilermakers' first day in full gear, though only in "Thud" format, meaning there wasn't really much actual tackling.
"You can get a little more work done in this kind of environment," Tiller said.
That begins Saturday, when Purdue scrimmages for the first time.
"I'm looking forward to taking some hits," Orton said, "and giving some."
Purdue showed some precursors to the power-running emphasis Tiller's promised this spring.
Offensive drills were dedicated largely to installing fullback lead plays, with tailbacks running behind fullbacks Frank Halliburton and Tyler Haston.
Redshirt freshman strong-side linebacker Jeff Lindsay split his time during 11-on-11 work between 'backer and defensive end.
"We want to get another guy at (defensive end)," Tiller said, "and he's the most physical of the young linebackers, so that makes him a candidate."
Defensive tackle Alex Magee, also, continues to see a load of work at end, including positional drill work.
With seniors Cliff Avril and Jeff Benjamin out with injuries, though, Purdue's numbers at defensive end are scant.
At defensive tackle, sophomore Mike Neal remains in purple, courtesy of the same foot problem that nagged him throughout most of the '06 season.
For much more on spring ball, Ultimate Ticket subscribers should visit GoldandBlack.com's Spring Football 2007 Blog.
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