UCLA guard Chris Ward sprains ankle; status is day to day

UCLA’s bad luck on its offensive line looked as if it had struck again Tuesday when guard Chris Ward was carted off the field because of an ankle injury.

After X-rays and an examination, it was determined to be a sprain and the school announced his status was day to day.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed that he will be back shortly,” Coach Rick Neuheisel said.

The Bruins have had injuries to a couple of key linemen in the last year. Guard Jeff Baca is still recovering from a broken ankle, suffered in spring practice. Center Kai Maiava is back after missing last season with a broken ankle.

UCLA coaches have placed a high priority on getting to the season opener with a full roster. Defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said earlier in camp, “We have to teach these guys how to practice. We have to get to Houston healthy.”

Neuheisel has had his team do a large chunk of drills on natural grass rather than the artificial turf at Spaulding Field. The Bruins practiced Tuesday on grass at Drake Stadium.

“It’s a little more taxing when you’re on the turf, you can feel it in your legs at the conclusion,” Neuheisel said.

Ward and Albert Cid have been alternating at guard with the first team.

Offensive line coach Bob Palcic said that he has options on the line if Ward is out for any length of time. That could include moving Sean Sheller from tackle to guard and playing Brett Downey at tackle.

Abbott shines


Cornerback Andrew Abbott, who came to UCLA as a walk-on and earned a scholarship, may be in line for another promotion.

As the only healthy cornerback with game experience behind starters Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price, Abbott has been getting extensive work. He broke up two passes in 11-on-11 goal-line drills and intercepted a Richard Brehaut pass Tuesday.

“He’s got a savvy to him,” Tresey said. “He just has to become more urgent on every play. His tempo changes off and on.”

Abbott, a junior, has been working as a nickel back as well as backing up Hester and Price.

The Bruins have lost two cornerbacks this month. Vanderbilt transfer Jamie Graham is out at least three more weeks after knee surgery. Anthony Jefferson is out until at least October following back surgery.

“It’s a responsibility to be game ready,” Abbott said. “With these guys down, I will be needed more.”

Injury report

Wide receiver Taylor Embree was scheduled to have an MRI exam on his right calf Tuesday. Embree, out since Aug. 10, had a setback Sunday, the first day he attempted to run at full speed.

“It was a little sorer than I thought it would be, so we’re just making sure it is nothing serious,” Embree said. “The trainers said it is a strained muscle.”

Safety Tony Dye, out two weeks with a groin injury, returned to practice. Safety Dalton Hilliard practiced a day after “tweaking” his knee. Safety Alex Mascarenas (concussion) practiced while wearing a red no-contact jersey.