LSU tackle K.J. Malone returns to practice just in time for senior night
BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU tackle K.J. Malone isn’t making any guarantees.
Malone has missed the better half of LSU’s season with an injury to the patella tendon in his left knee that was sustained in LSU’s win over Florida on Oct. 7. Since then, Malone hasn’t practiced or traveled with the team, let alone dressed out for a game. But this Saturday, in the senior’s last opportunity to don the purple and gold in Tiger Stadium, Malone is going to try to do just that. But, first, he had to practice.
Malone did just that Monday.
“I’m just going to go out there and be with [center] Will Clapp again and all them,” Malone said. “We’ll see how it feels when I’m practicing if I can do it. But if not, I’ll still be out there coaching and doing what I’ve been doing the past few weeks, yelling on the sideline.”
LSU coach Ed Orgeron listed Malone as “questionable” for the Tigers’ game versus Texas A&M on Saturday. That’s an upgrade from last week, when Orgeron categorized Malone as “very questionable.” But there’s one difference between last week and this week, and it’s not Malone’s health.
This week, everything is mental. Malone said he wants to be dressed out in pads for LSU’s senior night festivities. Saturday will be his last opportunity to play in Tiger Stadium, and he wants to take advantage of it. So, he intends to play through the pain. If he can, of course.
Malone said he doesn’t anticipate participating in anything more than individual drills this week. Since the injury, all Malone has done is rehab and work out, so throwing him back into full contact right away would be reckless. But Malone said if all goes according to plan, he’ll be cleared to participate in team activities by the end of the week.
Still, Malone doesn’t want to come back and claim a starting spot that doesn’t necessarily belong to him. LSU’s offensive line has played well in Malone’s absence, with freshman Saahdiq Charles stepping in admirably as the senior’s replacement. Malone, who has spent the last six weeks helping coach Charles, said he’s happy to sit back and help the team where it needs him most.
“I don’t want to take Saahdiq’s spot like that, Malone said. “He’s been in there. We’ve been doing great. I’d rather do what the team’s doing great on and have me be ready for what goes down.”
Whatever it is that goes down, Malone said he’s just happy he’ll be able to spend Saturday on the field with his family and friends celebrating his collegiate career.
“There’s still pain in it,” Malone said of his knee. “But I can’t miss my last week.”