Pierce rejoins Arkansas in time for fall drills

Updated: August 11, 2003, 8:29 PM ET

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas fullback Mark Pierce returned to campus late Sunday night and was in uniform Monday when the Razorbacks began fall drills.

Last week, Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said he thought it would be another couple of weeks before he knew if Pierce would be back for the fall semester and the 2003 season. Pierce had been given a personal leave of absence on July 15.

But Pierce showed up for Monday's practice looking fit and he worked with the first team.

Nutt kept the media away from Pierce on Monday, but Nutt said the junior might be available on Tuesday during the Razorbacks' media day.

"He's in very good shape," Nutt said. "It's surprising really, but he did OK and he made every play today. I had a very good conversation with him and he's got a lot of things under control right now."

Pierce's father died suddenly last year following Arkansas' victory over LSU. Neither Nutt nor anyone else with the team had commented on Pierce's absence, only to say he left for personal reasons. They said they wouldn't elaborate because they wanted to protect Pierce's privacy.

Pierce led the Razorbacks last season with eight touchdowns, six rushing and two receiving, and started all 14 games at fullback.

Pierce's teammates were glad to see him. Wide receiver George Wilson said the team should be motivated by Pierce's return.

"I told him I loved him and that I'm glad you're out here," Wilson said. "I tried to hug him and he picked me up and swung me around in the air. That's what motivates you. I've been here all summer and haven't had all the problems he's gone through and persevered. He came back and he's a prime example to the rest of the team."

Nutt said the Razorbacks had a good first day of practice, although there were several players who couldn't run all their sprints at the end of practice. All-American offensive tackle Shawn Andrews and tight end Jason Peters were among that group, although they ran the final few sprints.

"I'm really impressed with our freshmen," Nutt said. "I'm just proud of the senior leadership. You can tell from the summer that most of these guys are in shape because we put them through it pretty good today for about two and a half hours."

The team spent the first half of practice outside until a rain shower forced them to the inside practice facility.

Nutt was also pleased with players who were returning from injury. Linebacker-defensive back Tony Bua (shoulder) and defensive back Marvin Jackson (knee) were back and going full steam.

"Marvin was unbelievable, intercepting balls and breaking on balls," Nutt said. "Bua, all those guys who had surgery, showed no effects from surgery. Pierre Brown, Lerinezo Robinson, Marvin Jackson, all those guys looked real good."

The team will continue to have one practice a day through Friday, with the newcomers starting at 2 p.m. and the veterans joining practice an hour later. Friday will be the team's first day in pads and Saturday will be the first day of two-a-days.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index