Duke QB back in limited role, 6 months after Achilles injury

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk has made it back for the start of preseason camp nearly six months after he ruptured his left Achilles tendon during an offseason conditioning workout.

Sirk will take part in the Blue Devils' first practice on Monday night, Coach David Cutcliffe said, but it will be in a limited role.

While the team's medical staff has declared Sirk ''100 percent ready'' and Cutcliffe says his quarterback feels great, he added ''there's a little bit of a mystery.'' So, the coaching staff is putting Sirk ''on a pitch count, not just on throws but on how much we've fatigued him'' and the plan is to let him work through his position drills and 7-on-7 passing workouts, among other drills.

Cutcliffe said he will have a clearer picture of Sirk's status ''a week and a half into this thing and see where he really is.''

Sirk is a redshirt senior who in his first season as the Blue Devils' starter led them to their first bowl victory since 1961. He was the co-MVP of the overtime Pinstripe Bowl win over Indiana after rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for another. Last season, he passed for 2,625 yards with 16 TDs and led the team in rushing with 803 yards and eight scores.

Sirk was hurt Feb. 9 while running a 10-yard sprint with some teammates. He heard a pop in his left heel and immediately recognized the sound - the same one he heard in his other heel in April 2013, when he ruptured his right Achilles tendon and was lost for that season.

''I thought I was going to see a totally crumbled youngster,'' Cutcliffe said. ''I saw a determined young man with great spirit and great attitude. ... I celebrate that every day.''

Sirk missed spring practice but set a goal of returning for the start of fall camp, and he is listed atop the preseason depth chart in the team's media guide. Duke opens the season Sept. 3 against North Carolina Central.

Sirk has been working with the Blue Devils' receivers all spring and summer, keeping his throwing arm and mental skills sharp while his heel heals.

''He's not favoring any leg. He's giving it all on his messed-up leg, as you would say, and he looks fluid to me,'' receiver Anthony Nash said. ''He's not passive, he's not timid. That's the main thing for him, just keeping that confidence.''

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Follow Joedy McCreary at http://twitter.com/joedyap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joedy-mccreary

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