Harris: Thumb will be ready for opener

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- The thumb injury Miami quarterback Jacory Harris dealt with on his throwing hand last season was repeatedly dismissed as something minor.

It apparently was far more severe than the Hurricanes ever acknowledged.

Harris feared "the worst" in the weeks following the injury, which was eventually announced as a torn ligament that required surgery six months ago. And although he's still recovering, Harris said Wednesday that he'll be pain-free and ready to play when Miami opens against Florida A&M on Sept. 2, followed nine days later by a trip to Ohio State in a rematch of the 2002 season's national title game.

"I guess the time off gave me time to rest," Harris said. "And when I got back, I was just in a mode where I've got to work to get better. I can't be the same person from last year. I've got to strive to get better."

Harris completed 242 of 406 passes last season for 3,352 yards and 24 touchdowns, the third-most in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He also threw 17 interceptions, second-most in major college football.

The thumb problem had him using a variety of wraps, tape jobs and treatments last season. He couldn't squeeze the ball properly and noticeably changed his release. And the numbers suggest it took a major toll as the year wore on: In the season's 11th game, he threw for 348 yards against Duke, but in the season's 12th and 13th games, he threw for 349 yards combined.

"You really don't know what's going on when your adrenaline is pumping, like when it first happened," Harris said. "I thought it was just a jammed finger. But at the same time, it's football. That's how the game of football is played. I'm sure back in the days when helmets didn't have face masks, they weren't complaining about broken noses. I don't think I should complain about a finger."

He was cleared to resume throwing in late May, and has been participating in drills with receivers and 7-on-7 sessions as the team informally begins preparations.

Harris could not play during Miami's spring season, which was brutal for him.

"That was the worst time in my life, because I can't imagine not being able to play football again," Harris said. "I'm the type of person that always thinks the worst."

These days, Miami once again is thinking about being the best.

The Hurricanes will come into the season, as usual, with hopes of a Bowl Championship Series berth. To get there, they know they need Harris to be healthy.

"Jacory's looked well. He's always looked well," said defensive back Brandon Harris. "Even when was just taking mental reps, he was always into it. He always wants to learn more, wanted to know what was going on on the defensive side. And even now, Jacory's throwing the ball well. What impresses me so much is just how much he wants to learn. ... He's very smart. That's what impresses me."

Miami opens camp Aug. 5.