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Mother Nature must not be a Purdue fan.
Not long after the Boilermakers kicked off training camp Monday morning at their usual locale — the intramural playing fields on the west end of campus — thunder began grumbling and lightning crashing in the distance. Plans were made to move practice indoors, but before they were carried out, the skies opened, pouring rain and dumping small hail on those who'd have to make the trek on foot to the Mollenkopf Athletic Center for shelter.
"We saw (the rain) coming," receiver Dorien Bryant said, "but I guess they just wanted to get us wet."
Luckily, the move indoors is no longer something that's dreaded, as the Mollenkopf facility was renovated in the spring to replace its worn-down, obsolete Astroturf with FieldTurf, a move that's been extremely popular.
"(The FieldTurf) is excellent," Bryant said. "I would have to ice my knees for a week after we played on the stuff we used to have. Now I'm good. This stuff is a lot faster, safer and just a better playing surface. It's going to help us."
Tiller always wants his team practicing outdoors, but as soon as the lightning became apparent, Purdue and NCAA policy — and some good, common sense — required him to move his team indoors.
The 10th-year coach said the move indoors didn't prevent his team from doing anything that it was scheduled to do, though the ceiling can often interfere with high punts.
"Everything moves at a faster tempo," Tiller said of the new turf. "There are a lot of pluses to the new surface."
The double practice session — veterans practiced first, followed by newcomers, with the line between the two becoming blurred at times — was a light one, conducted in jerseys and helmets.
Conditioning work at the beginning of each session was grueling. Veterans ran 100-yard shuttles.
"The rain was kind of a blessing because I was dying before it started raining," senior defensive end Anthony Spencer, "but when it started raining I got my wind back."
Junior linebacker Dan Bick — potentially facing his second shoulder surgery since December — took part in practice, knowing full well he might be going under the knife soon.
Bick is being given injections to manage his pain. He'll be monitored through the early portion of camp before a decision about his status is made. In December, Bick had the AC joint in his shoulder resected, alleviating the discomfort that plagued him significantly during the '05 season and made him more or less a week-to-week player who could do little in the weight room.
"It's something I have to deal with," Bick said. "It's hurting here and there. It's something I have to fight through right now. The outcome right now is unknown. I'm trying to get healthy as soon as possible, because I want to play.
"It's been a long recovery process and spring ball was right in the middle of that. I probably did a little too much during spring ball. Since spring, it's remained sore and I've had trouble in the weight room and doing other things I've wanted to do."
Bick, one of the defense's more spirited players and an emerging leader, is trying to deal with the situation the best he can.
"It's very frustrating," he said. "Like anyone, I want to be healthy, but this is part of playing. But the way you handle things (can determine) the outcome. You can't put blame anywhere and you have to just stay positive."
The junior practiced with the first-team defense at weak-side linebacker.
"If we're going to do something surgically, we'd be better off to do it immediately," said Tiller, who could redshirt Bick if things escalate to that point, "because we could get him back in October.
"I guess you roll the dice. You talk to the player and see how he feels, but we need to know."
When asked if he had any regrets on not holding Bick out of spring practice, Tiller said he didn't. Bick had been cleared to practice, the coach said.
"This is news to us," he said. "He had some corrective surgery and allegedly it was all done."
Williams Feels Good
After missing last season with a broken leg and torn muscles in his foot, and sitting out much of the spring with back problems, sophomore safety Torri Williams said he's good to go for training camp.
Remarkably, the first-team strong safety is one of Purdue's most experienced defensive backs, having been on the team the past two seasons and having seen action in nine games.
"It's important that I'm out here," Williams said. "I'm one of the older guys out here, even though my playing experience might not be as great. I have to be out there to help them and show them what I've learned, so they can watch me and know what to do."
After being plagued repeatedly by ankle problems in recent seasons, senior receiver Kyle Ingraham says his clipped wing feels good.
"I ran all day and didn't feel a thing in my ankle," said Ingraham, who iced the ankle after practice as a precaution. "I was running well, cutting well. I was really pleased with how everything held together. I'll probably be a little sore in the morning, but that's just part of the game from now on."
The 6-foot-9 Ingraham is not only healthier, but bigger as well.
"I think I weighed out this morning at 241, but right now I'm probably like 207 after running," Ingraham joked, taking a stab at the shuttles the veterans ran pre-practice.
Sophomores Brandon King and Alec Huber are expected to be ineligible for the season, but Tiller could not confirm it following Monday's practice.
"This is Purdue," Tiller said, "so we won't know that until the first day of class."
Both players practiced — they're expected to remain in the program — but King, a starter coming out of the spring, was not in the two-deep and Huber was pushed back to practicing with the team's newcomers in the back end of the double-decker practice.
Two players were in purple for the light practice — sophomore linebacker Jason Werner and junior offensive guard Nick Fincher.
Werner will be treated lightly during camp after undergoing minor back surgery over the summer; Fincher continues to recover from a major knee injury sustained in the spring, an injury that's now afflicted both his knees.
"He's a veteran player, a fifth-year player," Tiller said of Fincher. "We're not going to do something goofy trying to get him back (early). His rehab has gone extremely well."
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