Junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt had no interest in adding to the growing conversation about the noticeable extra weight he carried into the start of fall camp last week.
Junior defensive end Stephon Tuitt had 12 sacks last season despite playing half the year with a sports hernia.
The preseason All-American lineman met with members of the media Friday for the first time since the middle of last December. Since then he’s suffered a national championship loss, had surgery to fix a sports hernia and padded out his 6-6 frame with an extra 20 pounds.
Notre Dame’s updated roster lists Tuitt at 322 pounds, the same weight as spring when head coach Brian Kelly said ideally he’d like his top pass rusher no heavier than 315 pounds. Tuitt sacked the quarterback 12 times last year, despite playing with a hernia for most of the second half of the season. He weighed 303 pounds at the time, according to the 2012 roster.
“I just was working hard, [my] body did the rest,” he said about his offseason after the surgery. “Now that we’re in camp and moving around, my body will do the rest again.”
Tuitt said he hadn’t stepped on a scale since the start of training camp. He may cut some weight due to the routine strain of August practices, but it’s not a specific goal for the coming weeks.
“Time will tell. I just go out every day and practice and my body will react the way it does,” he said. “… I feel great right now. I feel stronger, faster, quicker and I’m ready for the season to start.”
Tuitt is playing without the load of a painful and nagging back injury for the first time since last October. That, he said, has made a major difference in his strength and his ability to burst out of his stance at the line of scrimmage. Tuitt’s production didn’t drop dramatically in the back half of Notre Dame’s schedule in 2012, but coaches said the hernia significantly hindered his play.
He nonetheless finished well enough to collect a long list of accolades during the offseason, including a consensus first-round projection for the 2014 NFL Draft even though he’ll still have a year of eligibility remaining after the season.
Kelly said he and the staff haven’t had any conversations with Tuitt, or any of their players, about a potential early exit to the NFL.
“Our focus with Stephon Tuitt this summer was conditioning, making sure he can be on the field for as many plays, and for him to continue to make progress academically towards his degree,” Kelly said.
Tuitt prescribed to the company line Friday, steering his answers back to working hard and keeping his focus on the day-to-day process of trying to get better. He said the preseason award watch lists and All-America mentions meant very little to him.
“It’s irrelevant because you have to do it all again,” he said. “To be noticed for that, yes, I’m very blessed. I’m glad that I have the opportunity to do that, but I still have to go back out there and do it.”
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