MarQueis Gray returned to the practice field on Sunday, and will do so again today, coach Jerry Kill said at his weekly press conference. It's too soon to say whether the senior quarterback will play Saturday against Northwestern, the coach said, but he is "cautiously optimistic" that he will on at least a part-time basis.
     "We did move him around a little bit" on Sunday, Kill said, "and I thought he responded OK. He took some reps, but still has a little bit of a limp."
     Gray sprained his left ankle and knee during the second quarter of the Gophers' victory over Western Michigan on Sept. 15, so he has missed almost a month with little football activity. "If we were playing tomorrow, he wouldn't be ready," Kill said. "But we'll see how things progress. I would say we're cautiously optimistic that he can be available for some situations."
     The coach wouldn't elaborate on how Gray might be used, protesting that it's too early to tell how healthy the quarterback will be by Saturday, especially given that he has missed so much practice. But it's unlikely the coach would reveal Gray's exact status anyway, given that Northwestern must prepare for two quarterbacks -- Gray and backup Max Shortell, who has thrown six touchdown passes in the starter's absence -- who might play Saturday.
     Shortell said Gray's return Sunday was a welcome sight for the offense, but that he hopes to retain a role in the game plan even when the starter returns.

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