WEST LAFAYETTE – Curtis Painter’s fate is in his hands.
Purdue coach Joe Tiller won’t be forcing quarterback Painter on the field Saturday against Michigan, and the medical staff won’t be keeping him off it.
Painter will make the decision on whether he plays with a slight separation to his throwing shoulder, Tiller said.
Painter hasn’t decided.
“It’s hard to tell,” Painter said after Tuesday’s practice. “It does keep getting better. It’s day by day, see how it goes. I think it’s just more of the pain, dealing with that, and with that goes the velocity and what I can get on it. I don’t know it will get injured much more. It was nothing structurally, but (it’s) pretty tender.”
Tiller said he assumes Painter will play, but is preparing as if he won’t.
“I trust Curtis, and I think he’s honest,” Tiller said. “I think if he can go, he’ll say he can go. If he thinks that he’s going to handicap the team if he doesn’t have velocity on the ball or some such thing, I think he’s mature enough to say, ‘Hey, you know, I can’t do this.’ ”
Painter has been getting treatment on the shoulder since Saturday. He didn’t participate in Sunday’s practice, and he was limited Tuesday and Wednesday.
It’s a bit of a surreal experience for him to be missing practice – and even thinking about sitting for a game – because of an injury.
He has made 40 consecutive starts, the longest streak in the nation, and said he has been fortunate to only have bumps and bruises throughout his career. He said his right shoulder “acted up” last season but deemed it soreness because of overuse.
With Painter limited, Justin Siller got the majority of reps with the first-team offense Tuesday and Wednesday. If Painter isn’t able to practice this week, that won’t necessarily keep him out against the Wolverines (2-6 overall, 1-3 Big Ten).
Because Painter is a four-year starter, Tiller thinks he has the experience to play without practice. Painter spent Tuesday behind Siller on every snap and has stayed attentive in meetings. Painter has completed 165 of 295 passes for 1,762 yards with six touchdowns and 10 interceptions as the Boilers have struggled to a 2-6 record (0-4 Big Ten).
But even if Painter is ready, Siller will play some.
Tiller would like to see whether Siller could be the quarterback of the future. That’s what he thought in April but backed off when Siller didn’t make significant strides from spring ball to training camp. Siller couldn’t beat out Joey Elliott, so he was moved to running back. After Elliott suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Northwestern, Siller was switched back to quarterback.
Siller had only four days’ worth of practice at the position before replacing Painter on the first series against Minnesota last week. With nearly three quarters of play in a game and a full week of practice, Siller said he’ll feel comfortable if he gets the call.
“Curtis gives us the best opportunity to succeed,” Siller said. “With him being a senior, he’s very experienced. He has the offense down. If he’s not healthy and I have to step in, I’ll do my best to lead us to a victory.
“I’m pretty confident he’ll be ready to go Saturday. But I’m practicing as if I’ll get reps and preparing myself if I need to be called on.”