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October 4, 2010BERKELEY-Monday wasn't the first day that defensive lineman Keni Kaufusi participated in practice with the Cal football team, but it was the first day he was cleared to do what he does best: actually start hitting things.
"I've been back, but just not really getting any reps," says Kaufusi. "I'm just trying to get back into the flow of things, because my arm's still hurt, so I need to strengthen it up."
Kaufusi's shoulder has been injured the very first day of spring camp. But he hasn't been out of action since he finally told the coaching staff that something was wrong-several weeks later. He was determined to play through the pain, but it was soon evident that even the smallest motions caused his shoulder to dislocate-not something with which a bruising defensive end can maintain his effectiveness.
"I went through all of spring ball with it," he says. "It kept popping out, so then we went to get an MRI, and they said that one of the ligaments in my shoulder, in the back, had just torn off. That's the reason it kept popping out every time I struck."
Without any kind of striking or swim maneuvers in his arsenal given the shoulder injury, Kaufusi-who was expected to be a big contributor on the defensive line this year-was forced to sit down and get surgery.
"For me, it felt really frustrating, because I'd already redshirted a year, so I'm sitting out right now, looking at it like, it hurts, because I already took a year off," says Kaufusi. "I want to play already, at least get some reps. Now, I just have to humble myself and remind myself that everything takes time."
Kaufusi underwent surgery at the end of spring camp in the beginning of May, and had to sit out all of fall ball, a total of more than five months.
"I started getting back out a little bit there two months ago," he says. "I'm still not cleared to go against the team, but I'm able to go against bags and finally strike things. I just can't move moving objects yet, striking moving objects."
And a 280-pound offensive lineman would most definitely qualify as a moving object. But now that all the rehab is nearly over, fans could very well see Kaufusi on the field by midseason, right on schedule with the team's predictions.
"Right now I feel like the percentage on my arm is like, about 80 percent," says Kaufusi. "When I talked to my doctor, he said that it would take about two more weeks. Now, I'm starting to get the hang of things."
So, how excited is the 6-foot-2, 280 pound redshirt freshman to finally get back to work?
"Oh, you don't even know!" he says. "I'm so fired up, I've just been watching everybody go through a lot of the reps, and I sit myself there, and I think, 'Damn, that could be me right now.' Hopefully two weeks comes up and I'm strong enough to play."
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