NEWPORT, R.I. -- When Pitt running back Ray Graham is healthy, there is no question he is among the top players in the Big East.
But we don’t know just how healthy Graham is yet. His first true test begins when Pitt opens camp Sunday as Graham makes his return from a torn ACL in his right knee.
Graham says his knee feels good, but coach Paul Chryst prefers to be cautious with his star player and won’t rush him back too quickly. Graham will open camp with a non-contact jersey, and then the training staff will take it from there to see how he does.
“No matter how your workouts go in the summer, once you start doing the football over and over, we have to be smart and say let's make sure he's progressing and not taking steps back,” Chryst said. “I'd rather be a little bit cautious than speed it up out of the gates too fast.
“He has to get where he can trust himself first and build the pieces of contact. So I'd err on being much more cautious with him, until you know they know they're not thinking about it and they can just go.”
Graham says he plans on wearing a knee brace initially just to be sure he has enough stability in his knee to be able to make his cuts without thinking about getting hurt again.
“I feel good, my confidence is there. At the end of the day it's more of a mental thing,” Graham said. “I don't want to be out there timid because I don't want to get hurt again. I worked too hard for this. I put too much sacrifice and hard work to getting back to being healthy.”
It is easy to forget that when the season opens, Graham will only be 11 months removed from injuring his knee. Many players take more than a year to return to form.
"It takes time," Chryst said. "I say that because guys I've been around that have had it, Joe Thomas (at Wisconsin), wasn't until the fourth game where he told me he felt like for the first time he could go out and play. I think it does take time, and it will be interesting how it goes for him."