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Graham says he plans to play team's opener

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Pitt running back Ray Graham will be a game-day decision for the Panthers' game Saturday versus Youngstown State. AP
Tuesday, July 31, 2012, 9:18 p.m.

NEWPORT, R.I. — Senior running back Ray Graham said he plans to play Sept. 1, when Pitt opens the season against Youngstown State, but he won't push his recovery from a serious right knee injury beyond the limits of his body.

“You definitely ease your way into it,” he said. “I think I'm Superman, but at the end of the day, we aren't really Superman.”

Graham hurt his knee Oct. 26 against Connecticut when he was second in the nation in rushing with an average of 134.1 yards. He is aware that most ACL tears take at least a year to properly heal, but he is determined to beat the odds.

“Everybody says it's a year, but it's a mind thing,” he said.

Graham said he hurt the knee when he planted his foot — something he said he has done “1,000 times” — and the turf at Heinz Field didn't support him.

“A lot of teams play on that field, and they beat that field up pretty bad,” he said. “But I am not going to give that as an excuse. (The knee) snapped when I planted. I misjudged my steps.”

Coach Paul Chryst said he anticipates Graham will be able to practice next week, but he won't rush him back to the lineup.

“I'd much rather err on playing him a day later in some drills than a day too soon,” he said.

“He has been able to go back-to-back workouts, but I don't know back-to-back practices. What will that be like compared to the workouts?”He said he will treat others returning from knee injuries, including guard Chris Jacobson and linebacker Todd Thomas, the same way.

“Let's also make sure we have them for the long haul,” Chryst said.

Meanwhile, young running backs Isaac Bennett and Rushel Shell may get significant work with the first team.

Some gaps in roster

Chryst said there have been recruiting gaps in the roster caused by repeated coaching changes, but he and his players don't dwell on the six-coaches-in-two-years scenario.

“All that stuff is real, and it's a side note,” said Chryst, who had three coaches at Wisconsin.

“But let's go. I think you have to acknowledge what happened with them all, and you have to just move forward.”

Penn State possibility

Chryst did not rule out accepting transfers from Penn State. But he also isn't publicly embracing them.

“We need to be aware of it,” he said. “I think it's unfortunate.

“If it absolutely is the right fit for a guy, then I think (Pitt) would entertain that. But we didn't want to do anything quickly.”

The only Penn State player linked to Pitt has been backup outside linebacker Mike Hull of Canon-McMillan.

Pitt No. 5

Pitt was picked to finish fifth in the Big East preseason media poll. The poll lists Louisville as the favorite, followed by South Florida, Rutgers and Cincinnati. Louisville received 24 of the 28 first-place. USF got the remainder.

“We don't pay too much attention to the polls,” senior safety Jarred Holley said.


Chryst said senior special teams ace Marco Pecora of Johnstown recently suffered an “upper body injury” that may prevent him from practicing next week. ... Paul Alexander of Root Sports and KDKA-FM will replace Jon Burton as sideline reporter at Pitt games.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can reached at or 412-320-7997.

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