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August 17, 2011

Borland feeling great physically

MADISON - Judging by the way sophomore linebacker Chris Borland has once again assimilated himself back into the Wisconsin defense after missing the whole of spring camp and most of the 2010 regular season, one would probably never guess he was injured.

Since rejoining practice on a full-time basis last Saturday, Borland has recorded interceptions, made plays in the backfield, landed on his surgically repaired shoulder and done just about everything else in between.

It's fair to say the hunger salivating throughout his football-laden mind is in the midst of being quelled.

"It can be tough," Borland said of his limited practice time early in fall camp. "You want to be out there with the defense and out there with the guys. So you kind of feel like you're letting them down, but with the big picture it's the smart play. But I'm feeling great. I've been doing a lot more contact recently and haven't had any setbacks.

"I'm feeling good."

That doesn't mean there haven't been scares.

When his right shoulder started feeling a bit 'tender' earlier in camp, and when the coaching staff thought it would offer some sort of peace of mind if they went forth with it, Borland underwent a MRI to see if anything structurally was causing the discomfort he'd been experiencing in that shoulder.

It's a procedure that hasn't been all too nice to the explosive playmaker throughout his time in Madison. Luckily, though, history didn't repeat itself.

"It was a little sore so we just checked it out," Borland said of last Friday's procedure. "It was just a little tender but everything is healthy. Of course you like to hear good news when you have a test done, but I'm feeling great."

With each waking moment on the football field, with each play he dives, lands on his shoulder and still pops back up, Borland experiences a little more relief and assurance that his shoulder is indeed back to full health.

Having had to answer questions about that injured area 'thousands of times' throughout the summer, Borland seems ready to just move on and log some quality reps in a meaningful game. At least then the questions will focus more on what's going on in regards to football even if he does take the high road when asked if the all too common injury questions are wearing on him.

"It's all right," Borland said. "It comes with the territory so I don't mind. It's good that people care."

Borland, who clearly provides a boost for a defense desperately in need of a few playmakers, has slowly been working his way back into the swing of things. He participated in both of Saturday's two practices, both of Monday's two practices and Tuesday's longest practice of fall camp without any noticeable setbacks.

He hasn't had any hiccups to this point and the biggest beneficiary of that notion has been the defense itself.

"To me he's been the difference to the defense," UW head coach Bret Bielema said in regards to the correlation between Borland's return and the improved play of the defense. "I thought Mike Taylor played faster with Chris in there. That's the case with all good players.

"Good players make the players around them play better."

The middle linebacker position, though he's had plenty of time to mentally attempt to learn the position, has been a work in progress for the third-year player. Having only truly played the position for a handful of practices, Borland is entirely focused on making sure he's doing everything right.

Learning it is one thing. Actually physically executing what he's learned is something completely different.

"That's a good point," Borland said. "I understood it coming in, but you've got to go through it physically. Your angles when you're on block protection is different and then fitting blocks and fitting runs, you come from different angles. That was an adjustment but it's not too much different because it's still linebacker.

"I was a little shaky at first with the calls because I was probably a little too excited at the beginning of camp, but I've settled down and I'm doing well at it."

Most importantly though, as evidenced by his natural ability to seek out the ball and ball carrier when he's practicing, Borland is healthy.

That's something you can't teach.






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