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    BLOG: The Specimen du Jour

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    He has been The Lab Rat of the Preseason, the Specimen du Jour whose every action has been monitored and analyzed and slipped under the microscope. The number of reps he takes. The accuracy of his throws. The strength of his arm. His mobility in the pocket. That limp he walks with when he's over there on the sideline. All that and more have been objects of scrutiny, which is what inevitably happens when the subject under consideration is his team's star and starting quarterback.

    That is how it has been for Dan Persa since the 'Cats opened training camp and so it was again on Wednesday night, when they were on public display for the last time before they start game preparation for their Sept. 3 season opener at Boston College. Once more he split time with Kain Colter directing the first offensive unit. Once more his throws were as accurate as they had been last fall. Once more he manifested a hitch in his step when he was not in action. Once more there were questions asked of him and his head coach, Pat Fitzgerald. And, yes. Once more there were no definitive answers given.

    "It's tough for me to imagine anything else," Persa would say when asked if he could Imagine anything other than him starting against BC.

    But, in the next breath, he added, "But, again, I'm going to keep talking to the doctors and follow their advice. The last thing I want to do is have a setback and start over."

    What has to happen for you to be cleared?

    "I think it's more on me than anything else," he said. "If I said I'm OK, I'm OK. But I think it would be stupid of me if I wasn't ready. So I'm not going to make any decisions just yet."

    What do you need to see to tell yourself you are OK?

    "Um. I don't know. I feel really good. But I still want to do a little more stuff, prove to myself that I'm ready to go. I didn't do that yet."

    He never would explicate just what that stuff was, but here, an hour after practice's end, he stood outside his team's lockerroom and patiently endured the scrutiny that comes with his situation. He detailed his recent routine: "I'm here from 6:30 in the morning until nine at night. So I think I get all the football I need. Then I throw in three rehab sessions of about an hour each." And he talked of his conditioning level: "I run two-and-a-half miles a day, so fatigue isn't anything that's playing with my mind." He talked of his comfort level at that day's practice: "I felt really good. The trainers are still limiting me. We're not pushing anything too hard since we still got a week-and-a-half to Boston College. So we'll start wrapping stuff up probably around Sunday. But I feel really good. I feel stronger everyday and I'm just going to keep working, doing what I've been doing." And he explained just how he was being limited in practices: "Just on the option stuff, reps that I don't really need. I know how to run the option. That's a little extra strain on my leg that I don't need right now. I think they're trying to get Kain a lot of reps too. I know my stuff pretty well and I think, like we saw last year, the more ready the backup is the better just in case."

    "He's getting better everyday. He's getting better everyday," Fitzgerald had earlier said of Persa. "We talked again last night. He's feeling as good as he has and he's doing more and more each day. To me, that's encouraging. It's not the Achilles. It's just the strengthening and the conditioning level. He's close. He's really close. I look forward to seeing him next week."

    When he is out there, Fitzgerald was asked, what are you looking for?

    "I just want him to have fun. I just want him to go out and do what he does. It's funny. I was asked about him limping the other day. He's been the same. When he's out there playing and moving around, you can't tell. It's when he's walking that he's actually thinking about his gait. It's kind of funny. It's actually gotten better. He looks a lot better than he did 19 practices ago."

    Is he getting antsy waiting for clearance?

    "I just think like any athlete, it's so hard right here at the last hurdle. Everyone wants to be patient. Unfortunately, he had to learn too much of that. But we're on the same page. We're not going to go too fast. . . But I feel great where's he's at right now." Do you have to see something, do the doctors have to see something before he's cleared?

    "Yeah. I won't make that decision. The medical staff will."

    When would you like that decision made, Persa is later asked.

    "I don't care. It doesn't matter to me," he said. "I think me and Kain, obviously we're both preparing like we're going to start the game. So it doesn't matter."

    Do you, to be sufficiently prepared, need to be the full-time starter through all of next week's practices? "I think so. I think around Tuesday, if I'm where I need to be, I'm definitely going to up the reps and do a lot more stuff."

    How is your mobility?

    "I feel fine. I think, I think this offense can be tailored to any player. A drop back passer, a running quarterback. That's what's interesting about this offense. I think it's not essential for me to be running all over the field to make this offense go."

    So is he reinventing himself?

    "Maybe a little bit," Dan Persa will finally say. "That's why I'm looking forward to the challenge of developing more as a pocket passer. Make decisions from the pocket. I really think that's going to help my development in the long run."

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