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Originally published April 13, 2010 at 8:37 PM | Page modified April 13, 2010 at 10:26 PM

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Chris Polk heals this spring, but says he will be fully ready for fall | UW football

With Polk out, the spotlight has shifted this spring to true freshmen Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper, who each enrolled early and are moving quickly up the depth chart at tailback.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Washington football coaches estimate that tailback Chris Polk gained roughly 700 yards last season after a defender made contact.

So the natural assumption is that the shoulder injury holding Polk out this spring came on one of the numerous hits he took on his way to 1,113 total yards — fourth in the Pac-10 and the best ever for a UW freshman.

If only.

Instead, Polk suffered a torn left labrum trying to throw a block against Arizona.

"There was a linebacker and a corner coming and I just reached out for the corner and grabbed him and he ran straight and just popped my arm out," Polk said.

It was the same injury to the same shoulder — though in a slightly different spot — that he suffered in 2008 as a true freshman. The first time, it required season-ending surgery.

When it happened again last year, in what was UW's sixth game of the season, Polk decided to play through it.

"I already missed a year, so I was not going to miss another year for the same thing," he said. "I wasn't going to be hurt on my teammates. This (playing football) is what I'm here to do."

He gained just 34 yards against Arizona and 51 the following week against Arizona State. But as the shoulder healed somewhat, he rallied to rush for 100 or more yards four straight weeks to not only finish with the seventh-best season in school history but also win over any of those who doubted his resilience following his truncated 2008 campaign, when he was hurt in the second game.

Running backs coach Joel Thomas says the way Polk persevered through the injury was "a testament to his toughness."

Polk had surgery shortly after the first of the year, leaving him out of contact work this spring. He puts on full pads for practice and wears a red jersey, going through non-contact drills but sitting non-contact work.

"I haven't even lifted this arm yet," he said.

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But Polk says there's no danger he won't be available for the season, vowing to be fully recovered by July. "I'll be 100 percent ready to go," he said.

With Polk out, the spotlight has shifted this spring to true freshmen Jesse Callier and Deontae Cooper, who each enrolled early and are moving quickly up the depth chart at tailback.

Coach Steve Sarkisian says it's likely each will play next season, which would give UW more options and allow for more rest for Polk, whose 226 carries last season were the most in a 12-game season for a UW tailback since Corey Dillon's 301 in 1996.

"By all means, we didn't plan on doing it that way," Thomas said. "But he proved worthy of the carries. Obviously we would like to spread it out a little bit to keep defenses on their toes, but people have got to prove (they are worth being given carries.) That's why we had two guys coming in."

Polk says he doesn't mind the competition.

"I'm glad," he said. "I like young guys as good as them to come in because it's like extra motivation to get better. The better they do, the better they are going to make me, and vice versa. I want them to do good so when I come back, I have to earn it, really fight for it."

And the spring is far from a waste. He's working on lower body conditioning drills and hopes to play this season at about 210 to 215 pounds compared to the 204 of last year.

He's also attempting to refine his blocking skills, mostly blaming himself for the injury of last season.

"I got hurt because I got my hands outside," he said. "So I'm really working this offseason to keep my hands inside so I don't hurt myself anymore."

Notes

• UW held Tuesday what Sarkisian said "might have been our most competitive practice, really intense." It included full-contact goal-line sessions, highlighted by a long run by Cooper that might have gone the distance (80 yards or so) had not secondary coach Demetrice Martin played interference.

Defensive end Cameron Elisara banged his knee and had to leave, but said later he hopes to be back for Thursday's practice. There were no other new injuries.

• WR D'Andre Goodwin remains out after suffering a hamstring injury Thursday. Goodwin also battled hamstring injuries last season.

• Sarkisian had this assessment of Saturday's 45-play scrimmage: "I thought we did some nice things, some things that were good. I thought our effort could be better, we could play with more of a relentless effort where our guys are really playing with their hair on fire, so that's something we assessed with our guys."

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

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