Turner proof Niumatalolo wants Midshipmen to get physical

Brandon Turner wore shoulder pads and shorts to Navy’s football practice Monday afternoon.

It wasn’t the full set of equipment nearly all of his teammates adorned. It was still a welcome step forward.

The wide receiver is one of three Midshipmen who were suspended for the first 2½ weeks of preseason practice after failing a physical readiness test. Coach Ken Niumatalolo did not permit the offending players to attempt the test again until late last week.

For Turner, a senior with 14 career starts who was (and still is) expected to be an important part of Navy’s offense, it was a jarring punishment.

“It’s like any problem,” Turner said. “The first initial phase, you’re hurt. The second phase, you’re mad. The third phase, you’re [expletive]. Fourth phase, you kind of get your head on straight and understand it’s your fault and no one else’s and you just have to deal with it. It’s another roadblock. You just have to get over it.”

Linebacker Josh Tate and defensive back Albrey Felder also were at practice Monday after passing their conditioning tests.

Turner cannot go through a practice in full pads until he goes through the same NCAA-mandated acclimation period most of the Mids went through at the start of camp.

He’s using the time to get back into football shape after training for running the longer distance the academy’s PRT requires.

Navy could use his presence. Junior Matt Aiken is doubtful to play in the Mids’ Sept. 1 opener against Notre Dame. The Mids’ current starters, juniors Casey Bolena and Shawn Lynch, own a combined four career receptions.

While Navy is not a prodigious passing team, Turner is a solid blocker who also led the Mids in receptions (14) and receiving yards (300) last season and figures to be an asset in his final season.

“He’s working,” Niumatalolo said. “Brandon knows our offense, but he has to work his way back. We’re not just going to give him a spot. He has to work his way back, and he understands that and he’s keeping his mouth quiet and just working.”

Tate, who was set to enter camp as a starter at outside linebacker, is also a welcome returnee.

Sophomore Chris Johnson enjoyed a strong camp to solidify Tate’s old job, but suffered an injury when his foot was caught in the turf last week.

Niumatalolo said it was a freak injury, and that Johnson’s availability for the opener “doesn’t look too good.”

Niumatalolo said Tate will need to earn back his spot as well, a final step in what was a costly lesson for the promising sophomore.

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