Pitt notebook: Linebacker Thomas eases back into drills

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 11:06 a.m.

Junior linebacker Todd Thomas returned to the Pitt football team Wednesday, but he can't participate in all drills until Saturday.

When Thomas left the team last week after one day of practicing without pads, he missed most of the NCAA-mandated period of heat acclimation. Players must have two days with only helmets and two days with only shoulder pads before wearing full equipment.

Coach Paul Chryst said he allowed Thomas to return after repeated discussions with him.

“I was able to talk to Todd, actually, every day,” he said. “We had continued discussions, and he's back on the team.”

Chryst declined further comment and Thomas was not available to the media.

Thomas was permitted to return, even though former Pitt running back Rushel Shell was not given the same the opportunity when he changed his mind about leaving.

Shell took nearly three months to change his mind. Thomas wanted to return a day after leaving, according to Doug Biega, his basketball coach at Beaver Falls High School.

Biega said he has no problem with Chryst waiting to reinstate Thomas.

“He wanted to come back almost immediately,” he said.

“But I don't think it should be that easy. When you make a decision, there tends to be consequences. Coach Chryst knows what he's doing.”

Linebacker shuffle

Experimenting continued among the remaining linebackers.

Redshirt freshman Bam Bradley was promoted to first team and joined Anthony Gonzalez as one of the outside linebackers, flanking senior Shane Gordon, who continues to make big plays in practice.

Redshirt freshman Mike Caprara, who had been an outside linebacker on the first team, moved back to his previous position in the middle on the second team.

Injury update

Junior running back Isaac Bennett missed practice with a knee injury and continues to wear a leg brace.

Chryst said Bennett may not practice Thursday, but he didn't rule out a return to drills before the end of the week.

Freshmen James Conner and Rachid Ibrahim and sophomore Malcolm Crockett are sharing reps at running back in Bennett's absence.

“They know where to go, lines on the paper,” said offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph of the freshmen. “Now it's filling out the details for the plays. I love their approach.”

After eight days, Bennett is the only significant injury on the team.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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