By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Under no circumstances was Justin Glenn going to subject himself to the play.
Two months had passed since his 2009 season came to an abrupt end, and the painful finish had replayed in his mind so many times that Glenn felt no reason to see it on screen. The University of Washington football player had avoided watching the play for so long that he thought he might never have to endure the image.
And then, while Glenn was innocuously watching film of the 2009 season in December, there it was. Just as painful as he remembered.
“It came up somewhere, and I kind of figured it was the play. Then I saw it happen, and I looked away,” Glenn said this week, cringing as he spoke. “I’ve only seen it once.”
Six months later, the play that ended Glenn’s season still lingers — both mentally and physically — as the redshirt freshman from Mukilteo tries to work his way back into the three-way battle for a starting spot this spring.
Glenn, who broke the fibula in his right leg while also suffering multiple ligament tears in an October loss to Notre Dame, returned to the practice field on a limited basis last week. He knows he still has a long way to go to get back to full strength, and Glenn has no interest in replaying the past.
“It’s just no fun,” the free safety said Tuesday. “I hated that game. It was bad for me.”
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time — for Glenn or the UW team.
On the play, which came during a key game while the Huskies were still clinging to hopes of a bowl bid, Glenn was pursuing Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate after a completion over the middle. Teammate Mason Foster, who was also trying to tackle Tate, inadvertently rolled on Glenn’s ankle before the Notre Dame receiver ran 67 yards for a momentum-turning touchdown.
After an overtime loss to the Irish, the Huskies’ season was headed on a downward spiral, while Glenn’s season was officially over. Three games into his tenure as starting free safety, Glenn was finished.
“I was just getting comfortable with the position,” said Glenn, who began the 2009 season as a starting cornerback but switched positions two weeks later. “That was another thing that (ticked) me off. I felt like I was holding my spot down, and now all of a sudden here I am, right back where I was.”
Two days after the Notre Dame game, the former Kamiak High School star had surgery that included two screws and a plate being put into his leg.
The screws have since been removed, and Glenn was able to return to activity in January. But the extensive ligament damage still hobbles him at the current camp, which began last week.
“It’s slow,” said Glenn, who practiced Tuesday afternoon after taking Saturday’s session off. “I’m just taking it day-to-day and see how it feels. I’m not going to push it and hurt it worse. I just want to be ready for fall camp.”
The slow recovery process has delayed Glenn’s primary objective — regaining his starting spot. True freshman Nate Fellner took over the starting job down the stretch and is the incumbent heading into the 2010 season.
As safeties coach Jeff Mills said Tuesday: “Nate Fellner started more games than all of (the players battling to start at free safety), so right now he’s got the upper hand. But have we settled on a starter at free safety? No.”
After a Tuesday practice that saw Fellner get most of the work with the No. 1 defense while Glenn got in a few snaps, the pair walked off the field together while conversing jovially. Their battle for a starting spot, which also includes redshirt freshman Greg Walker and could add a true freshman or two to the mix in the fall, is strictly a friendly one.
“We’re cool,” Glenn said of his relationship with Fellner. “We’re working together. We’re just trying to make the team better. We’ll see who’s best come BYU (in the September opener).
“But I can’t really speak to that because I’m not really out there. He’s been doing good, so we’ll see.”
In a sense, Glenn has one foot back in the pool. He’s still trying to forget the gruesome ending to his 2009 season, and now he can’t wait for the next one to begin.
“I can’t even tell you (how hard it is) being out here but not being able to fully participate,” he said. “I’m still getting mental reps and trying to learn, but it’s tough not to be at full strength. Then again, I think about how (the inactivity) will help me in the long run, when I won’t have the lingering pain.”
Said Mills: “We’re just trying to be smart right now and make sure that we don’t rush him back too soon. We’re not playing a game tomorrow. We’ve got time to get him ready for the season. I know what he can do.”
Receiver Cody Bruns (concussion) and defensive tackle DeShon Matthews (Achilles) were held out of Tuesday’s practice because of injuries. … Backup quarterbacks Keith Price and Nick Montana saw extensive action Tuesday as the coaches try to evaluate them in preparation for this fall’s battle for the No. 2 job behind Jake Locker. Price, who redshirted as a freshman last fall, looks more comfortable in the offense as of this week. … UW has added three walk-ons to its roster: former Edmonds-Woodway receiver Din Kuses, defensive end Peter Follmer and cornerback Laroy Chase.