Gray better, but not ready to start

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 4, 2011 - 9:57 PM

Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray, who missed the Michigan game because of a toe injury, practiced Tuesday but his availability for Saturday's game at Purdue remains uncertain.

He never had sat out a collegiate game before, so Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray wasn't sure how he could contribute. But once the rout was on, he settled on aid and comfort.

"I was trying to do a little more smiling than normal," Gray said Tuesday after participating in a full practice for the first time in nearly two weeks. "I tried my best to make sure [my teammates] knew I wasn't down at all, but was trying to build them up."

Gray can build them up most of all by returning to the football field, but there's no certainty in when that might be. The "turf toe" ligament soreness in his left big toe has faded, but not disappeared. He felt better running on it Tuesday, "but I'm not at the point I want to be yet," he said.

And until he is, coach Jerry Kill said, Gray won't play. He named freshman Max Shortell the starter for Saturday's game at Purdue, with the caveat that "if MarQueis is healthy, that could change. But he's going to have to practice full speed."

Healing has taken longer than Gray ever imagined. He remembers his toe being jammed into the turf when a North Dakota State tackler fell on his foot Sept. 24, but the adrenaline of playing a game kept him in the lineup.

"After the game, I could barely walk," Gray said. And the day after the game, "I could barely put my shoe on."

He wore a boot on his foot most of the week, and was limited to non-contact, non- mobile throwing in practice. Gray took the field at Michigan to test the foot, but "you never really know how much the big toe affects you, running-wise," until it's hurt, he said. "I wasn't able to push off, and that's when we made the call that I couldn't play."

Purdue is a little over an hour from Ben Davis High in Indianapolis, where he played before coming to Minnesota, and he's expecting his former coaches and plenty of family members in the crowd. So he'd like to play quarterback again this week, and not wait until after the Gophers' upcoming bye week.

"I'm gaining confidence in my foot," he said. "I'm able make a little bit of [the] cuts, get up my speed. ... It feels better each day."

Injury updates

Troy Stoudermire's left arm was in a sling at practice, and the senior cornerback will sit out the Purdue game because of a fractured forearm. Until he's able to tackle with both arms, Kill said, Stoudermire will remain out of practice.

Offensive tackle Jimmy Gjere also didn't practice, as he recovers from a mild concussion, and his status has not been determined. Fellow tackle Ed Olson (undisclosed injury) took part as normal, however, and should play.

Tailback Donnell Kirkwood expects to be ready for Purdue after some mild soreness in a hamstring. And receivers Da'Jon McKnight and Malcolm Moulton, each of whom suffered minor leg injuries at Michigan, should be available.

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