COLUMBIA — Van Alexander ripped off his red jersey pullover in a grand gesture the senior Missouri linebacker had to find therapeutic. Sidelined since spring practice, Alexander swung the jersey over his head for a few seconds before flinging it to a nearby trainer as if it were on fire. Although the Columbia native took part in his first contact action on Monday, he put the precautionary jersey back on later that day. According to Tigers coach Gary Pinkel, Wednesday's move is the beginning of a strategy by sports medicine director Rex Sharp to have Alexander ready to play when the season starts.
"We're getting him into inside run a little bit, and then putting the red shirt back on," Pinkel said of Alexander, who tore his right ACL during spring practices in April after coming down with an interception during a drill. "They're just going to bring him along and bring him along, so he's making real good progress. It's really been a miraculous recovery for him thus far."
After practice Wednesday, Alexander said he was thankful for the trainer's decision.
"It just felt good to finally get back out there and have some contact," Alexander said. "It finally feels like we're making some progress with rehab."
Although Alexander says he wouldn't be ready to play if the Illinois game were tomorrow, he did come up with an interception off Jimmy Costello during an 11-on-11 drill late in practice.
"I feel like I'm at about 80 to 85 percent," said Alexander, who worked primarily with the second team in Wednesday's practice. "The knee feels good, it's just decelerating that's been giving me trouble. The problem is just me getting comfortable out there doing everything I need to do."
Teammate Sean Weatherspoon said he has been impressed with Alexander's recovery as well.
"We spent a lot of time in the training room together this spring," Weatherspoon said. "I just couldn't believe his dedication to getting in the training room and doing everything Rex (Sharp) had him do. I've seen him go through so much since he's been here, especially this year. Now, to see him out here, it's just a great feeling for me, and I'm sure it is for him, too."
GABBERT'S SHOULDER ACTS UP: Freshman quarterback Blaine Gabbert went to lunch with a bag of ice on his shoulder.
It wasn't soreness that Gabbert was worried about.
Gabbert had a MRI Wednesday afternoon on his throwing shoulder and wore a red jersey during Wednesday's afternoon practice.
Last season, Gabbert sat out most of his final high school season after separating the same shoulder that was injured today.
n Senior tight end Chase Coffman was back in practice Wednesday, dressed in street clothes a day after having surgery to insert three screws in his right pinkie finger.
"After I get the wrap off in the next couple of days, I should be able to do a whole lot more," said Coffman, who added that trainers discouraged him from taking part in physical activity because of the painkillers he is using for the injury. "The hardest part, honestly, is just switching everything over to my left hand and bagging it up in the shower and stuff like that."
Coffman said he wears a device over the finger for three hours a day to stimulate bone growth in hopes of speeding the finger's recovery.
Coffman also said he plans to be back in pads after about two more days, participating in everything but catching balls during practice.
- Danario Alexander was cleared to run full speed Wednesday, two months after having a second surgery to repair a re-torn ACL in his left knee. Alexander hurt the knee originally in the Big 12 Championship game. Pinkel said he expects the junior wide receiver to make his return to practice on Oct. 1, and be ready for the team's conference opener against Nebraska three days later.
- After nearly two weeks of practice, it's obvious that Missouri does not have a linebacker on its roster who can cover tailback Derrick Washington one-on-one. It seems like almost every day, at least once during one-on-one drills, the sophomore torches whoever is attempting to cover him and coasts in for an easy touchdown.
- Sophomore receiver Jeremy Maclin provided one of the practice's highlights on the last play of a one-on-one drill early in practice. Faking a flag route and cutting back in on a double move across the back of the end zone, quarterback Chase Daniel hit Maclin for an easy touchdown with starting safety Justin Garrett almost two full steps behind the speedster.
- Freshman offensive lineman Travis Ruth underwent surgery Wednesday morning for a foot injury.