Weis feeling better about standing during game

Aug 10, 2009 - 9:32 PM By TOM COYNE AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind.(AP) -- Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is feeling good about his health as well as his team.

Weis was worried three weeks ago about whether he'd be ready to stand along the sideline for a full game after having his right knee replaced in December. The condition of that knee had deteriorated after his left knee was severely injured when a 264-pound player collided with him during the Michigan game last September.

"It's taken a drastic turn for the better," Weis said Monday. "My right leg feels way better. I still don't have great staying power. But every day that's getting better and better."

The pain in Weis' knees got so bad last season before the surgery that he watched Notre Dame's 49-21 victory in the Hawaii Bowl from the coaches' box.

Weis spent the summer working on his legs, walking on a treadmill in a pool in the training room. He'd walk up to four miles a day for as many days a week as he could find time. Weis said working in the pool is good for him because of nerve damage to his feet, the result of complications from gastric bypass surgery in 2002.

On Monday, Weis leaned at times on an equipment box alongside the field. There also was a seat at practice for him, but the seat was a regular sight at practice before he was injured as well.

Weis, 53, plans to have his left knee replaced after the season is over, saying it still gives him problems.

"If you see me walk, my left leg is like this ... it takes a hard left when I'm walking," he said.

As well as being happy with his improving stamina, Weis said he's happy with what he's seen from his players so far. With players still not in full pads, he's been focusing on just five players.

He's been watching to see how tight end Mike Ragone is looking after surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He's watching James Aldridge, who switched from tailback to fullback, and how Darius Fleming is adjusting after moving from defensive end in the nickel package to a strongside linebacker.

He's also watching how center Dan Wenger is adjusting to being demoted to second string and the stamina of nose tackle Ian Williams.

"Fortunately, in all five of those guys that I brought up it's been a positive impression I've gotten from all of them within the things I was looking for," he said.

Competition for starting positions won't truly begin until Thursday.

So far the only player who is not taking full part in practice is defensive tackle Hafis Williams. The reason he is not allowed to practice has not been disclosed.

Weis also said Monday that he put a stipulation on players who want to wear helmet visors, which Notre Dame's hasn't previously allowed. The visors must be clear, saying he didn't want players to have "Darth Vader visors" because "I thought were way too Hollywood for Notre Dame."

He also required players who use visors to be clean shaven and clean cut. Most of the two dozen or so players who got the visors needed a haircut or a shave. Weis said he had a "conga line" of players coming through his office seeing whether their hair was short enough after a cut to get a visor.

"We had some fun with it," he said.

Weis, a fan of the New York Yankees, was asked if his desire for his players to be clean cut was an influence of George Steinbrenner.

"If you look at several players on our team, you'll know I don't have much of a Steinbrenner influence," Weis joked.

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