Jeff Tuel was given the news we expected on Wednesday after his latest x-rays revealed his broken clavicle can withstand contact, and he was cleared to play this Saturday. From the release:
Washington State University Head Football Coach Paul Wulff announced today that junior quarterback Jeff Tuel has been cleared to play in Saturday’s game against Stanford.
Tuel met with Cougar team physicians Wednesday morning and after the examination was cleared to play with no restrictions.
Tuel suffered a fractured left clavicle in WSU’s season-opening victory over Idaho State and has not played since. Wulff noted that Tuel’s role in Saturday’s Homecoming Game against Stanford will be a gametime decision.
So he's good to go and his x-ray on Wednesday provided a metaphorical thumbs up. It still doesn't mean he's going to trot onto the field on Saturday. The medical side is only part of the equation. The rest? Well, that's up to Tuel himself, along with the coaching staff.
We all know he wants to be on the field, something he's made clear in interviews since the initial injury. He's a competitor, a player one would have to drag off the field kicking and screaming. But he's also smart. And if he's not at a point where he's completely ready to go, he won't go.
I alluded to this on Twitter, but he's not the same Jeff Tuel right now. Watching him throw in practice, he's just off. Not drastically, but enough to be noticeable. His touch, accuracy and throwing motion aren't quite where they were before the injury, which is to be expected. After all, he's only been throwing in pads, and in earnest, for about two weeks.
What I can't tell is how much can be attributed to rust and how much is a throwing motion that just looks different. Against, it's not drastically different, it's just different. And part of it may be from the motion itself.
Tuel can reach back and put a lot of zip on the ball -- a product of how he throws the ball. Watch him work: his throwing motion is over-the-top and he snaps his wrist down upon release. In some ways, it's a bit of a violent motion. And while his broken clavicle was on his non-throwing side, it still affects what he does.
And then there's the rust. He's been taking his reps mostly with the second-team, though he did work a bit with the first-team on Tuesday. Lobbestael still took the lion's share of the reps, but Tuel did get a bit of time. There's an adjustment for him, and he'll still need to find his touch and timing again. Right now, it's not quite there. On deep throws, he was a bit long. On short to intermediate routes, he would sometimes throw too far behind or in front of receivers.
Just because he's cleared doesn't mean he's jumping back into the fray and reclaiming his role as the starter this week. Odds are it'll come soon, but he's going to need to practice well to get there. Could he blow the doors off on Wednesday and Thursday? Of course he could. But right now, it's not incredibly likely.