SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame is taking an aggressive approach with Jarrett Grace's comeback from multiple knee surgeries. As for whether that means Grace will compete for a starting linebacker spot, or even be ready for the Fighting Irish's Aug. 30 opener against Rice, clarity might not come until the end of the month.
"We’re going full-go for him to be ready for Rice," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. "He wants to do it that way. He’s very encouraged. I think it’s the best I’ve seen him mentally. He was in a tough spot there for a little bit before the surgery. It was good to see him in very good spirits today. We’re going to be very aggressive with him, let him go and I think if we really went slow with him, it would probably put him in jeopardy for being ready for the first three, four weeks. That’s not what he wants. We’re going to go at it and go for the best."
Speaking before Football 101, a charity event put on by Kelly Cares, the fifth-year Notre Dame coach said that Grace rode a bike during Tuesday's summer workouts, the Irish's first of the season. All other ailing players from the spring were able to participate in conditioning drills, Kelly said, with center Nick Martin (MCL) and linebacker Ben Councell (ACL) fully cleared.
Receiver Will Mahone (ankle) did some running, while tackle Ronnie Stanley was limited following a minor knee procedure to clear up "some loose impediments." Kelly added that defensive lineman Tony Springmann (ACL, infection) was good to go.
It will take some more time before the Irish know if the same can be said of Grace, who had a rod inserted into his right knee on March 28, more than five months after he had surgery to repair a broken tibia and fibula suffered during an Oct. 5 victory over Arizona State.
Grace, a Cincinnati native, had a team-high 41 tackles last season before suffering the injury.
"Right now we would take it, as we want him healthy to compete against Rice, and then whatever happens from there," Kelly said. "We were at a point where we didn't know where he was and whether he could play, and we're seeing some positive things. So I think we'll take it as, 'Let's get him back against Rice, and then if we hear better news over the next two, three weeks' -- I think by the end of June, we're going to know really whether we can answer that question as, 'Let's get him on the field against Rice,' or, 'Let's get him competing for a starting position.'"