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Originally published Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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UW football | QB Jake Locker's father says MRI shows a "minor strain"

Willingham told reporters in his regular press briefing Saturday he had no update on the status of Locker, who suffered an injury to his left hamstring in practice Thursday, because had not seen the results of an MRI. The MRI was taken Friday. But Locker's father, Scott — who was attending the team's annual Picture Day at Husky Stadium — said the MRI showed "a minor strain (of the hamstring) on the outside of his left leg."

Seattle Times staff reporter

While Tyrone Willingham danced around the issue of his quarterback's health with reporters on Saturday, those who met it head-on said they have little doubt that Jake Locker will be ready to take the field at Oregon on Aug. 30.

Willingham told reporters in his regular press briefing Saturday he had no update on the status of Locker, who suffered an injury to his left hamstring in practice Thursday, because had not seen the results of an MRI. The MRI was taken Friday.

But Locker's father, Scott — who was attending the team's annual Picture Day at Husky Stadium — said the MRI showed "a minor strain [of the hamstring] on the outside of his left leg."

Scott Locker said the MRI also revealed that the location of the injury added optimism that his son could return to the field sooner rather than later.

"It wasn't to the backside, it was more to the side," he said. "And they said that would be something that would be a quicker heal for him. They said if it was going to have to happen, that would be one of the better places for it."

As for when his son will be able to return, Scott Locker said, "They can't really give a time frame because it depends on how they heal. But [a UW trainer] said he didn't think it would be too long, and he would be back to ready to go.

"I have little doubt he'll be on the field at Oregon."

Jake Locker sat out practice for a second day Saturday and appeared to limp a bit while walking to Picture Day.

But Scott Locker said appearances may be deceiving due to the nature of the treatment his son is receiving.

"He says it's not all that painful," Scott Locker said. "But [UW trainers have] got it wrapped so tight because they want to keep it immobilized."

Willingham said he hadn't seen the results of the MRI because "it's not a big concern for me," possibly because he also seems to not have much concern over Locker's long-term availability.

"He'll be well when he's well," Willingham said. "We said it'd be day by day. He'll be ready pretty soon, and away we go."

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With Locker sidelined, backup Ronnie Fouch took "the lion's share" of the snaps at quarterback the past two days, Willingham said, and has stepped right into assuming a leadership role.

"It's been good," Willingham said. "But I don't expect him to be anything but good. What Ronnie Fouch is doing is what we've seen from him before. It's nothing new. Nothing unexpected."

AD could be hired by end of the month

In one of the more definitive statements from a UW official on the matter, acting athletic director Scott Woodward said that he thinks a permanent athletic director could be hired by the end of the month.

"Before the football season, that's my guess," Woodward said, before adding, "But that's not the president's guess or the [search] committee's."

Woodward has served as acting AD since Jan. 31 after Todd Turner resigned under pressure on Dec. 11 while also keeping his regular role as the university's vice president for external relations.

With a new school year getting close, Woodward said he thinks it's time he gave up the dual role.

"Personally, it's time for me to do one job full-time," he said, adding that "I hope it's not wishful thinking" that a hire will be made soon.

Woodward also didn't rule out that he could emerge as the permanent AD.

He said in May he was not a candidate for the job because UW president Mark Emmert preferred that he stay in his current position on upper campus.

He said again on Saturday that "I'm not a candidate."

But asked if that meant that if UW hires a new AD by the end of the month that it won't be him, he smiled and said, "I didn't say that, either."

The length of the search has led to questions about why it has taken so long. UW officials won't address specifics — such as whether the job has been offered and turned down. But Woodward said the fact that UW is a public university makes a search more complicated than at a private school such as Notre Dame, which recently hired a new AD six weeks after the resignation of its previous AD.

"They can do everything in private," Woodward said. "Here, we have to be methodical and have a process, get a search committee going. They can just up and [make a hire]. It's a totally different animal."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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