- The Washington Times - Friday, August 20, 2004

Maryland nose tackle Justin Duffie’s stomach is still sore. Scar tissue sometimes tears after he slams into 300-pound offensive linemen. His stamina and weight are down.

Still, fall practice has been successful for the Terrapin. Two months after a bowel resection to combat Crohn’s disease, which had sidelined him nearly 20 months, Duffie is preparing for Maryland’s Sept.4 opener against Northern Illinois at Byrd Stadium.

“On the walk to the field at the beginning, I thought about [whether to continue] a little bit,” he said, “but once I get on the field, I just think about doing my job. I wouldn’t be back out here if I didn’t think I would play a lot.”

More than 100,000 Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease, a chronic digestive disorder that commonly affects the small intestine or colon. Hereditary or environmental factors most often cause Crohn’s, which has no cure. None of Duffie’s family over the past two generations has it, though.

Doctors removed 14 inches of Duffie’s intestines June11. He has regained 20 of the 30 pounds he lost, but eating large amounts taxes his system and can worsen the disease.

“It’s been tough trying to stay healthy,” he said. “There were times where I wasn’t sure if football was causing it to get worse, but I wouldn’t give up the game unless I absolutely had to.”

Doctors underestimated the time needed for painful recovery, though Duffie certainly doesn’t help by banging against linemen several hours daily. The 4-inch scar above his belly button remains tender.

“It was a painful process, a lot more than they described it,” he said. “Everything affects your stomach. That’s what makes it difficult to play again because your abs are the core of everything.”

Duffie is one of the more popular Terps in the locker room, and teammates haven’t overlooked his struggle.

“Everybody can see how tough it is,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “He has it 10 times harder, and he wants to be out there 10 times more.”

Passing along

As expected, coach Ralph Friedgen said quarterback Joel Statham can seal the starting job with solid outings in the intrasquad scrimmages tomorrow and Thursday. Ryan Mitch may have the edge for No. 2 over Sam Hollenbach and Jordan Steffy, who is limited by a sore arm.

“Joel’s clearly No. 1,” said offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe. “He’s not a finished product, but he’s the most consistent of all of them. Behind that, it changes day to day, period to period. Overall, Ryan’s made the biggest improvement since spring’s practice, but he’s hot and cold. We haven’t had consistency other than Joel.

“They all have talent. It’s really who can learn and absorb the offense and execute it with the most consistency. They don’t have to win games. They just have to run the offense. It takes them awhile to learn.”

Learning to read safeties has been the biggest difference since an erratic spring for Mitch.

“I didn’t do as well as I hoped in the spring and was the lost guy,” he said. “In high school, you looked at the flat defender and now you have to watch the safeties.”

Ruff days

The two hottest practices midway through camp made it official: the dog days have arrived. Friedgen delivered a sharp message to his players before a recent workout to increase their effort.

“The intensity was incredible the first day of pads,” Friedgen said. “Now they’re a little sore, a little tired and out of their comfort zone. It’s not as easy to be as intense. We’ve got to get beyond that. It’s just like boot camp — you just have to do it and get through it.”

Extra points

Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. autograph session at Byrd Stadium is expected to draw 5,000. Fans can watch a light practice afterward. … The Terps will concentrate on linebackers, defensive backs and cornerbacks in their next recruiting class. … Defensive tackle Robert Armstrong (hamstring) and receiver Curtis Williams (hamstring) missed practice, and receiver Steve Suter was limited because of offseason knee surgery. … Ten of the tentative 22 starters bench press more than 400 pounds. Statham was the only one under 300.


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