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Rees Confident He'll Play Saturday

Senior quarterback Tommy Rees said his sore neck didn’t create any problems in getting through his somewhat limited workload Tuesday during the team’s first scheduled practice of the week.

Irish quarterback Tommy Rees said he had no problem going through drills during Tuesday's practice.

Rees left last Saturday’s game against USC early in the third quarter with what coach Brian Kelly labeled as a neck strain and did not return. The team’s medical staff cleared Rees to return to his pads Tuesday. On Wednesday, Rees said he’s confident that he’ll be ready to play against Air Force in Colorado this weekend.

“I feel good. Meeting with the training staff and doctors and getting cleared to participate yesterday was big. I felt good out there and I’ll continue to progress throughout the week. I’m really happy with where I’m at,” he said.

Rees declined to say what type of medical attention he received, just that he didn’t feel hindered at all by the neck at this point. He will take fewer snaps during practice this week as a precaution as he continues to heal. That leaves more time for senior Andrew Hendrix and freshman Malik Zaire to prepare in case they’re needed during Saturday’s game.

The senior, who has started 25 games over the course of his four-year career, doesn’t feel comfortable enough to take an entire week of practice to heal and still be ready to play on game day. Kelly also said Rees isn’t ready for that. Had the team’s trainers waited until later in the week to clear him to practice, Kelly said he would’ve considered keeping Rees on the sideline this weekend.

“When you're cleared on Tuesday, your first day of practice, I don't think there's any hesitancy to go out and play somebody when he's cleared so early in the week,” Kelly said.

While he wants to stay active to maintain his timing with receivers, Rees said can digest most of the weekly game plan with “mental reps,” especially after spending much of last year doing so in a back-up role.

“I want to take every rep, but if being precautionary means taking less reps than I’m used to I guess that’s something I gotta do,” he said. “I have to find a way to stay sharp and get ready to play Saturday.”

Hendrix will also have to be sharper in the role that Rees held last season. He took over the Irish offense after Rees left Saturday’s game against USC and failed to complete a pass. Notre Dame’s attack stalled on Hendrix’s watch, picking up only two first downs the final 25 minutes of the game.

Rees, who frequently came off the bench a year ago, said being inserted into a game unexpectedly can be hard to manage, especially when it happens for the first time. His first career snaps came early in his freshman year against Michigan. He threw an interception of his first pass attempt.

“Obviously he wants to play better, and he’d be the first guy to take accountability for that,” Rees said. “He’s working hard in practice and everyone on this team has confidence in his ability to go in there and play good football for us. I think it will help him realize how close he is to playing and what it takes the preparation level. I think he’ll continue to get better and play well.”

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