Best ruled out vs. Stanford Saturday

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Star tailback Jahvid Best is eager to return to the football field after being sidelined by a frightening fall and concussion and has targeted California's season finale as a possible return date.

Best gave his first extensive comments Wednesday following the injury that knocked him out and put a scare into his Golden Bears teammates. He said that the symptoms from the concussion have cleared but he still has a sore back.

"I'm just trying to take it day by day and hoping for the best," he said. "Every day I'm feeling a little better. I'm hoping it keeps progressing that way and hopefully I'll be out here pretty soon."

Best missed last week's game against Arizona and has been ruled out of the Big Game on Saturday against No. 14 Stanford. Best hopes to be able to return to the field Dec. 5 against Washington.

Best was injured Nov. 7 when he hurdled an Oregon State defender at the end of a 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Best vaulted into the air over safety Cameron Collins and then was bumped even higher by another defender before falling on his back and head from about 8 feet in the air.

Best's helmet came off on impact and he briefly lost consciousness. He spent one night in the hospital with the concussion and sore back.

"Any time somebody is taken off the field on a stretcher, it always gets taken pretty seriously," Best said. "But I'm a blessed person. Thank god it wasn't as bad as it could have been."

The last memory Best has of the play was jumping in the air. The next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital. His mother filled him in on the details of what happened. Best has seen the play twice since then and said "it still doesn't look that bad to me."

Best said if the chance came up again he would still choose to try to jump over the defender -- a move that used to be illegal in college football.

"From my vantage point, there was a guy coming to tackle me low," he said. "I didn't see the other guy who actually hit me and pushed me and knocked me off-balance. I didn't see him. So if it ever happened again, I would jump over the corner."

This was the second concussion Best sustained in an eight-day period. He was diagnosed with a minor concussion after the game the previous week against Arizona State.

Cal players all get baseline testing before the season that measure balance, memory, reaction and recognition. Players are tested again after a concussion to compare the post-concussion results to the healthy ones. Best said his tests returned to normal in the past couple of days.

"It doesn't make me rethink football at all," he said. "Football is a violent game and stuff like this happens all the time."

Cal fullback Brian Holley is writing a senior thesis on concussions and has talked to Best about the dangers. The main message Holley gave his teammate was to be smart and that "you can't play with your brain," Best said.

Best returned to the team last Saturday as an honorary captain for the game against Arizona. He has been at practice the past two days, supporting his teammates as they get ready for the game against the Cardinal.

He said it will be difficult to watch Saturday's game, but his presence is serving as an inspiration to the rest of the team.

"He's a part of this team," coach Jeff Tedford said. "Everybody loves Jahvid and Jahvid loves the team. That's why he's so well respected. He is a team guy. Even though we know he's not going to play this week, he's here to support his teammates. That's Jahvid all the way. He's a first-class guy."

Best, one of the most dynamic running backs in the country and a preseason Heisman Trophy contender, has 16 touchdowns and 867 yards rushing this season. He also has 22 catches for 213 yards.