This is the point of training camp where a sense of drudgery can start to creep in. The University at Buffalo has been at it since Aug. 8, mixing in double sessions the last 10 days. At this time next week the Bulls will be into full-fledged preparations for their Sept. 3 opener at Pitt.
For now, though, they continue to honor the time-tested notion that repetition breeds familiarity. As head coach Jeff Quinn likes to say, hearing the same thing a million times is more beneficial than hearing a million things once.
Junior inside linebacker Scott Pettigrew refuses to let the routine of practice nudge him toward complacency. He's perhaps more mindful than most that careers are short, futures uncertain and the trials of practice worth savoring.
"Last year, sitting out was definitely hard on me," Pettigrew said. "It's great to be back, be back with my team, not taking it for granted this time around."
Sixteen months ago Pettigrew rose from the ground following a spring scrimmage play, sensing something was wrong but having no idea how wrong it would be. He walked off the field. He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging test. The pictures were ghastly. A torn medial collateral ligament, lateral collateral ligament, iliotibial (IT) band and hamstring.
"I definitely felt something, didn't think it was as bad as it was," Pettigrew said. "I've had my fair share of injuries. I know what it's like to go through pain. I'd like to think I have a high pain tolerance. I got through it and the MRI came up and that's when it hit me that I'd be out for the year. At that point it was definitely hard. Luckily I had a redshirt year."
If injuries were gold most would conclude that Pettigrew owns more than his fair share. He had two shoulder surgeries, elbow surgery and minor neck surgery, and that was all before he came to UB from Thompson's Station, Tenn., where he was teammates at Independence High with Bulls safety Issac Baugh. What's more, Pettigrew was stabbed in the upper chest last October after an altercation that resulted in the arrest of three men.
"That was a one-week deal," Pettigrew said. "I got over that and put it behind me."
Pettigrew's return should help to offset the graduation departure of hard-hitting Justin Winters, the team's second-leading tackler last season. Two years ago, Pettigrew was fourth on the team in tackles and second to Winters among linebackers. He was in on 55 stops, 27 of them solos. He also had three tackles for losses, one sack, broke up four passes and topped the Bulls with two forced fumbles and three recoveries.
He can't wait to get back at it.
"Twelve-month recovery, it was tough," Pettigrew said. "I've had a few surgeries before, so I know the rehab process and how important that is to get back on the field. I just came in every day, didn't miss a rehab session, and just got back on the field. I didn't have to worry about my knee bothering me, 100 percent this time, play fast, play hard."
Pettigrew is part of an experienced front seven that hopes to take the heat off what will be a young secondary. The Bulls have Richie Smith, Steve Means and Gordon DuBois on the line with Pettigrew, Khalil Mack, Jaleel Verser and John Syty (if healthy) or Lee Skinner as the backers.
"Definitely our line's looking big and the linebackers are looking great, too," Pettigrew said. "We didn't lose much. It should be a great year."
Tailback Brandon Oliver sparked a celebration among offensive players during Monday morning's workout when he shed three tacklers and ran over a fourth on a 15-yard touchdown burst. The offensive line continues to undergo injury-related adjustments. Canadian freshman Dillon Guy (6-foot-5, 320 from Hamilton) and Gabriel Barbe (6-7, 309 from Montreal) have been holding down the left side while left tackle Pat Wilson (shoulder) and centers Jasen Carlson (knee) and Josh Violanti (knee) recover from injuries. Violanti has yet to take part in full practices after offseason surgery. Wilson was nicked in Saturday's scrimmage. Redshirt freshman Skinner continues to see time at inside linebacker in place of the ailing Syty.