SB FILE / 2006
Warrior defender Michael Lafaele was in the middle of things during last year's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. CLICK FOR LARGE
Ailing Warriors take it easy
If Hawaii's injury list looks in November like it does now, the No. 24-ranked Warriors may have a difficult time living up to their preseason hype.
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But more than two weeks remain before the UH football team starts the season at Aloha Stadium. And the opener against fledgling Division I-AA member Northern Colorado might be a better match for the Kahuku Red Raiders than the Warriors.
Still, the Hawaii starters want to make sure they're ready to play at full capability Sept. 1. That means five starters are taking it relatively easy due to various bumps and bruises as fall camp nears its end Saturday.
Senior defensive tackle Mike Lafaele's discolored and ballooned right hand looked like something from a ghoulish Halloween costume after practice yesterday. Lafaele, perhaps the team's physically toughest player, just shrugged it off.
"It's not as bad as it looks," he said.
But later, Lafaele received treatment and said he would likely not participate in contact drills today.
"It's still kind of bruised and swollen, but it's nothing serious," Lafaele said. "I don't want it to get worse. I just need to ice it and rest."
All three starting linebackers also continue to deal with assorted ailments: Blaze Soares (shoulder), Adam Leonard (knee) and Solomon Elimimian (hamstring).
Elimimian said he strained his right hamstring on Saturday. He plans to come back slowly, probably not until Monday at the earliest.
"There's no sense in rushing it," he said. "I know that with a hamstring you have to wait until it's perfect, and then some."
Also, starting center John Estes (elbow) has been suiting up, but not knocking heads, running back Mario Cox (hamstring) was limited to light jogging, and super slot Davone Bess has been in and out with tightness in his lower back.
Estes said an MRI determined it would be best to wait until Monday to return to full contact.
Bess was not as cautious. Proving that his back would not keep him out of a game, Bess jumped into action when his understudy, Mike Washington, began to dominate practice yesterday.
Using his quickness, Washington got open at will during a red zone drill. After six touchdown catches observers lost track. It got Bess' attention, and he went in and got some, too, but it was Washington's day.
"He's such a quick little guy," cornerback Myron Newberry said. "I was trying to mess with him all day, but he kept making the plays.
"I love that red zone drill. We split with (the offense) today."
It was a spirited, hypercompetitive segment. Cornerback JoPierre Davis ragged starting wideout Jason Rivers, and former slot and current volunteer assistant Jason Ferguson responded in kind when Rivers made a play.
Coach June Jones gave it mixed reviews.
"We have a lot of veteran guys who know what to do. So, there's a lot of good things, and some things we could get better on," he said.
Newberry and Gerard Lewis, his fellow returning starter at corner, had one more reason to up their games yesterday; just-cleared Ryan Mouton watched the practice. Mouton and another JC transfer, Calvin Roberts, were recruited with the express purpose of upgrading the corners.
"Hey, the more competition the better," Newberry said. "That's how I was brought up, to accept challenges."
Another cornerback hopeful, Keenan Jones, sat out with a strained groin.
"I'll be back (today). Either that or move down the depth chart," he said.
Keenan Jones and defensive end Francis Maka reported outstanding summer school grades, ensuring their eligibility.
"I heard," defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said to a beaming Jones. "Great job."
Practice was set to continue today with a three-hour workout starting at 8:30 a.m. and an afternoon session from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.