LINCOLN — Quarterback Tommy Armstrong sat down in his living room Saturday morning, propped up his injured right foot and turned the TV to ESPNU.
Nebraska was playing at Purdue, and the guy who’d started the past 22 games for the Huskers didn’t make the trip.
“It was weird,” Armstrong said.
He did his best to make the most of it. He tried to identify the Boilermakers’ alignments and coverages. He recognized the NU formations and attempted to predict the play call. He made mental notes of what worked and what didn’t.
But ultimately, that feeling of helplessness was a rare one for Armstrong, who’s spent most of his career influencing the on-field action and providing a leadership presence.
So you can assume Armstrong will be doing everything in his power this week to return to action.
“I’m trying to rehab as much as I can,” he said. “I feel comfortable about playing this week. Just got to make sure I’m smart about how much I practice and how much workload I put on my foot.”
He and coach Mike Riley made sure not to deliver any definite statements about Armstrong’s status. Practices on Tuesday and Wednesday will be the most important ones. Armstrong said he’ll test his foot out in those half-padded, full-speed workouts and use those reps to remove fears of potential re-injury.
It’s a turf toe. The way Armstrong described it: It’s as if you’ve jammed your finger — only it’s the big toe and nearly every step features a “pinching” sensation. That makes it difficult to plant, cut and run.
Riley said Armstrong looked good jogging on the training room’s AlterG machine, an anti-gravity treadmill. Armstrong wasn’t wearing the protective boot at Monday’s press conference. He was at the no-helmets walk-through practice later that day.
But nothing is certain at this point.
“I think the bigger story will be the next two days,” Riley said Monday.
Last week Armstrong’s availability was determined after Nebraska’s two major work days, practices he didn’t participate in. He watched from the sidelines as the team installed its game plan for Purdue. Trainers indicated to Armstrong that he wouldn’t be cleared to practice until Friday. So he knew by Wednesday that he’d miss the game.
Armstrong did want to travel with the team, but the Big Ten travel roster is limited to 70 players. Riley indicated that NU needed every spot filled by an able body. Armstrong understood.
The last time he missed a full game was as a redshirt freshman, when Nebraska lost 38-17 to Iowa in the 2013 regular season finale. He returned to help the Huskers earn a Gator Bowl win over Georgia.
He hopes he can suit up again Saturday and perhaps spark a resurgence.
He sees the positives. Ryker Fyfe played well in his absence (despite the costly turnovers) and gained some valuable experience. The offense stayed together and kept fighting throughout. The fact that Armstrong did sit out allowed his foot to heal up a bit. He may have made it worse if he came back too early.
Armstrong said he felt much better Monday than he did a week ago, but there’s still has a week of practice to prove it.
“I’ve just got to get that confidence back in my foot,” Armstrong said.
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