Josh Rosen walked onto the intramural fields on UCLA’s campus Wednesday morning and headed directly to the sideline area where injured players gather to stretch.
The question was whether the hopes of the Bruins went with him.
Officially, there was no word on the injured quarterback’s status for UCLA’s road game against Washington State on Saturday. Bruins Coach Jim Mora would not say whether Rosen participated in practice but did acknowledge that backup Mike Fafaul took more snaps than usual.
Mora also said that Rosen would have “quite a bit” of input as to whether he could return from the injuries to his lower body and shoulder area sustained against Arizona State last week. The coach noted that Rosen’s father, Charles, is a spine surgeon who could help his son assess the possible risks of playing again so quickly.
“He’s a competitive guy, and he wants to play,” Mora said of his quarterback. “We just have to make sure that we make the right decision, not only short term but long term, for him.
“At the end of day, you help him make the best decision for him, but you let him make that decision if it’s safe. We’re not going to let him make a decision that puts himself in further jeopardy.”
Rosen appeared unencumbered as he walked past reporters and was not wearing any kind of brace or protective gear. He has not missed a game because of injury in his 1 1/2 seasons with the team.
Mora said the experience Fafaul gained last week in the first extended action of his career should benefit him if he’s needed against Washington State. The fifth-year senior completed three of 11 passes for 44 yards with two interceptions against the Sun Devils.
“Even though it wasn’t a beautiful performance in terms of the numbers,” Mora said, “just getting out under the lights in a tough situation against a defense that was coming after him, I think it gives him confidence so the next time he goes out there, it’s not the first time this year in a pressure situation.”
Mora said coaches would not simplify the offense if Fafaul was the starting quarterback. Tight end Nate Iese said he would try to help Fafaul by communicating what he saw on the field and providing more time to throw after the Bruins allowed five sacks last week.
“As a unit, the tight ends and the [offensive] line, we need to get better in protection and make him feel a little bit more comfortable in the pocket,” Iese said.
Fafaul’s teammates expressed confidence that the former walk-on could lead the Bruins to victory if necessary.
“I haven’t seen an ounce of nervousness,” said left tackle Conor McDermott, Fafaul’s roommate. “He’s excited. He was joking after practice, ‘I’m not used to being this tired.’ He’s taking every rep, took some hits in the [Arizona State] game, and after the game, he was a little sore, like, now you know how we feel. But it’s just been fun, he’s been nonstop confident.”
McDermott described Fafaul as a perfectionist who apparently models himself after Tom Brady, given that he has had a poster of the New England Patriots quarterback on his wall since he was a freshman and also has a calendar featuring Brady.
Fafaul and Rosen were not made available to speak with reporters.
“I just know how hard he’s had to work and how long he’s had to wait,” McDermott said. “This is his fifth year so I was excited in the huddle against Arizona State when I saw him come in, and I’ll be excited this week if he gets a chance to step on the field in his first start.”
Iese was among 30 players selected to the midseason watch list for the Mackey Award, given to college football’s top tight end. Iese has 13 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns. … Mora said Randall Goforth switched from safety to cornerback against Arizona State because Nate Meadors suffered an injury in warmups.
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