Irish quarterback Tommy Rees returned to practice on Tuesday and fully intends to play Saturday at Air Force after coming out of last Saturday's 14-10 win over USC due to a strained neck, suffered on a sack in the 3rd quarter.
"I feel like I'm at a spot where I'm good enough to go back out and play," Rees said Wednesday. "I feel really good. The progression has been good throughout the week with the doctors and training staff. I felt good yesterday at practice, continue to get volume throughout the week and I feel good about playing Saturday."
Rees was crushed on the play by Lamar Dawson and took a while before he was able to get up. He eventually walked off on his own power.
"I saw it," Rees said of the hit. "Seemed like a clean hit to me. Things happen. Didn't seem anything like a dirty play. Just part of playing football."
Rees was attended to be trainers, doctors and medical personnel in the bench area and examined.
"I was pushing to go back in," Rees recalls. "At the time it wasn't the best decision to make. I respect what the doctors and training staff do. They're the experts--they know what they're doing. I'm not going to question them but I was definitely lobbying to get myself back out there."
Instead, Rees was taken to the locker room. When he returned to the field, it was clear he was done for the day--Tommy didn't have his helmet and was wearing a hoodie instead of his pads.
"I was extremely frustrated after I came out and I was told I could not go back in--it was pretty tough to hear," Rees explains. "Playing against your rival USC, night game at home, your playing well---the last opportunity---its a tough hand to be dealt at that position. I wanted to be out there more than anything but the training staff did a great job and I have a lot of respect for what they do and their decision. It was a tough pill to swallow but ultimately it was the right decision and ultimately we won the game, so it worked out."
Brian Kelly said Tuesday that as long as Rees shows the progress they want through Thursday's final practice, Rees will start Saturday at Air Force.