MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- On the first day of spring drills where he was supposedly on limited duty, Steve Slaton caught Patrick White's drilled passes to the left, to the right, all over. So his surgically repaired right wrist already is that much improved.
"I'll be 10 times better without [the broken bone]," Slaton, a consensus All-American at tailback as a sophomore, said after an indoor practice yesterday to open the West Virginia Mountaineers' spring workouts. "You can only do so much with one hand."
Slaton talked openly about the broken bone that nagged his right, football-carrying hand for more than a year, an injury that didn't prevent him from rushing for 1,744 yards last fall and ranking second in NCAA Division I-A. The wrist flared whenever tackles or hits caused the joint to flex backward.
"It felt like it was being broken all over again," he said. "Not something I'd wish on somebody."
He didn't want to miss any Mountaineers games or practices, so surgery was put off until after the season. In early January, doctors opened the wrist and inserted a pin, and Slaton began a four-month recovery process.
Halfway through, Slaton said, "I could play if we had a game Saturday. But it's still not 100 percent."
The wrist is expected to completely heal and regain full motion by mid-May, when he can fully resume weightlifting.
For now, though, "Our strength staff ... they find ways to torture your body parts," he said.
The final hurdle will come with contact in the fall, he said, "Just to see how my wrist takes it, that's the biggest thing [left]."
Although he enters a junior season that conceivably could be his last, he said he hasn't given the NFL a thought.
"People call, but I really haven't paid much attention to it," said Slaton, 21. "The time hasn't come yet to worry about it. Maybe after next season. Then maybe I'll sit down and think about it."
NOTES -- Former starting quarterback Adam Bednarik has been cleared to throw with his surgically repaired right shoulder, and he resumed passing in practice. "He'll be limited this spring, but he can throw some," coach Rich Rodriguez said of the senior. ... Tailback Jason Gwaltney worked with the third-team offense at times. "Got to see if he'll make the commitment on and off the field," the coach said of Gwaltney, absent 15 months after being suspended as a freshman. "It has not been a problem on the field. We've got to see if he's reliable in classes."
Chuck Finder can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1724.