Joey Elliott is still probably lost for the remainder of the season. But there's good news.
The Boilermaker quarterback, it turns out, will not require surgery, Coach Joe Tiller said Tuesday.
The coach said the severity of the injury - sustained in the second quarter at Northwestern after he replaced Curtis Painter - was first dubbed a "fifth degree" affliction, but further investigation dropped it down to third-degree.
That's good news for the junior, who'll have an opportunity to compete for a starting position next season as a senior. Recovery from surgery likely would have carried over into the spring, which certainly would not have helped his chances of winning the job.
"That's good for Joey and good for us," Tiller said.
Boilermaker running back Kory Sheets is off-limits to the media for the rest of the year after he made critical comments about quarterback Curtis Painter and the offense in general following the loss at Northwestern.
Previously this season, the outspoken running back was barred from speaking with the media after comments made following the Oregon game.
On two separate occasions, Tiller was asked Tuesday for his reaction to the fifth-year senior's post-game spiel, which included a plea of "I need help (carrying the offense)" and a telling, "No comment," when asked if he felt Painter was capable of leading a turnaround.
First, Tiller said Sheets' comments were disappointing, but not surprising, then turned to sarcasm.
"If any person thinks they can carry the team (themselves)," Tiller said, "then perhaps we should just give him the ball, stand on the sideline and cheer. I don't know what kind of plan that would be, but perhaps we could try it."
Later, though, Tiller wasn't as scathing.
"I think we all know Kory pretty well," Tiller said, "and nothing Kory says surprises any of us, neither players nor coaches. Kory's liable to say anything at any time.
"I have an issue with what he says somewhat, but the other side of the coin is he's playing hard and I think his heart's in the right place. I think he's frustrated, and that manifested itself in some comments.
"I don't think, from a deep-seeded point of view, that he's malicious or thinks anything bad about his teammates. But he's frustrated. He's a competitive guy and he wants to win. So do I. I might not say things like he says, but I'm three or four years older than he is."
Painter said he'd not yet seen what Sheets said, but said the running back talked with him about it Sunday.
Adams this week?
Last weekend, Tiller was optimistic he'd have tight end Kyle Adams back for this weekend's Minnesota game.
Now ... not so much.
"Until we get the green light on him, I can't predict when he'll be back," Tiller said of Adams, who's been sidelined since the first quarter of the first game. "... It's a darkening situation."
Adams has returned to practice, but in only a minimal capacity, as he's still wearing purple.
The junior does have a redshirt year available, and that scenario grows ever more likely to take shape with each week that passes.
"We want to play him, but we might be in a position where that's not wise," Tiller said. "We're going to approach each week like he's playing that week, until we get to the last two weeks. If we get to where there's only two games left in the season, even if he's ready, we might go ahead and redshirt him. But up until now, are thoughts are to play him."
In other injury news, Tiller said safety Frank Duong, who played one snap at Northwestern, is getting healthier, after missing several weeks with an ankle injury.
"There's a good chance we'll get him on the field more this week," Tiller said.
Tiller acknowledged the possibility that if Elliott hadn't gotten hurt at Northwestern, he might have had the chance to start the rest of the season, depending on how the rest of the game in Evanston went.
Such was unthinkable prior to a season in which so much was expected from the struggling Painter.
Tiller re-iterated a comment he's made in recent weeks that Painter's accuracy has been one of the fatal flaws for an offense that's had a rough go of things this season.
He illustrated his point by highlighting a first-half sequence from Northwestern, when Painter threw incomplete for Greg Orton in the end zone while Sheets was standing wide open, a play that was the genesis of some of Sheets' post-game remarks.
On the very next play, Painter threw incomplete to a well-covered Sheets.
"To me, that's pre-determining (where to throw)," Tiller said, "and when you pre-determine, usually there's a negative result. ... I think pre-determining is hurting (Painter)."
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