Duke QB Sirk working his way back from ruptured Achilles

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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk has already come back from one ruptured Achilles tendon.

Now he's doing it again - and faster than before.

Less than six months after he was hurt during an offseason workout, Sirk is aiming to be back on the field next month when the Blue Devils begin preseason camp.

''I just don't want to be back just to say that I'm back,'' Sirk said in an interview with The Associated Press. ''I want to be even better than I was before. It wouldn't do me any good or the team any good to say, `Hey, Thomas Sirk is back.' I want to come back and help our team win in every game.''

Sirk's recovery will likely be a topic of discussion Thursday during the Atlantic Coast Conference's media days in Charlotte. Coach David Cutcliffe said this week that he'll have a better idea of Sirk's availability in the next couple of weeks - Duke begins Aug. 8 - but that Sirk's work ethic during his rehab process left a strong impression on him.

''I don't ever go into the facility and not see him working,'' Cutcliffe said.

Sirk is a rising redshirt senior who in his first season as Duke's starter led the Blue Devils to their first bowl victory since 1961, an overtime win over Indiana in last year's Pinstripe Bowl in which he earned co-MVP honors after rushing for two touchdowns and throwing for another. He passed for 2,625 yards with 16 TDs last season and also led the team in rushing with 803 yards and eight scores.

Then came a seemingly benign conditioning session with his teammates on Feb. 9. He started to run a 10-yard sprint and heard his left heel pop. It was the same sound he heard from his right heel in April 2013 - when he ruptured that Achilles tendon and missed that entire season.

''I just kind of accepted it at that point - here comes the rehab process,'' Sirk said. ''I knew that I did it once, I can do it again and come back from it.''

To many outside the team, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Sirk wouldn't play in 2016, and the first-team reps during the spring game went to Parker Boehme.

But the Blue Devils weren't so pessimistic. Cutcliffe said during spring practice that ''Thomas may be ready, just so everybody knows'' while mentioning his rehab was ahead of schedule, and it was Sirk who was listed atop the post-spring depth chart.

For Sirk, some of the lessons from his first comeback helped to accelerate the process this time around, he said.

''It's kind of sped up as far as what I'm doing, and now I feel like I'm reaching the goals that I had last time for my Achilles faster, and I'm reaching them at 100 percent,'' Sirk said. ''I'm not just reaching them to say that I've reached them. You don't want to be too ambitious, but at the same time you've got to have faith in the process.''

The worst of the exercises, he said, were calf presses because ''it's kind of disheartening when you can't lift up on one side as well as you can the other side'' but that he's regaining the muscle definition in his left calf.

He said he's been throwing five days a week with his receivers to keep his timing, touch and coordination, even if sometimes those throws have been while he's on his knees. And he's jogging both on land and on an underwater treadmill, working toward his goal of running full speed.

Ultimately, he wants to help Duke reach - and win - an ACC championship game after the injury during his redshirt freshman year kept him sidelined during the Blue Devils' run to the Coastal Division title in 2013.

''It means everything to me, coming back for my senior year and being there with the guys I came in with and finishing what we started,'' Sirk said. ''We want to win an ACC championship. I think we have that caliber of talent on our team. ... I feel like I still have unfinished business and I want to make my senior year the best I can for myself and my team.''