April 3, 2008

Practice Insider: Butch Lewis works his way back

Butch Lewis came to the University of Southern California in 2006 from Colorado as a two-way star with all the accolades and talent you could ever want in a lineman. Lewis had a breakthrough performance last season, filling in for Sam Baker at left tackle. Many hoped Lewis would dominate spring practice and solidify himself as the entrenched starter heading into the fall, but an ankle injury forced Lewis out of the early action and he is now battling to win the spot back.

"Right now they've got me on second team," Lewis said after practice Thursday night. "Alex (Parsons) and Charles (Brown) are playing really well. So I have to get back and compete."

Competition between teammates for playing time can be destructive to the cohesiveness and camaraderie to the team if it's not handled properly, but Lewis says that is never a problem with the team.

"We know that we're competing, but we still encourage one another," he said. "We don't make anything personal, we just try to better ourselves instead of beating the other person."

With his reps limited as they work him back towards full-speed, Lewis believes his ankle is getting close.

"It's going pretty well, I'm pain-free right now," he said. "So I hope to be 'full-go' by tomorrow or Sunday. We're still doing conditioning drills on the side to get us back up to par.

"I think I'm doing really well, definitely a lot better than I was a couple weeks ago."

Even when he is healthy, Lewis knows that there is more to playing left tackle than just a functioning ankle.

"I've got to get back to getting used to the calls and the contact," he said about the learning curve. "(I need to work on) staying fundamentally sound, like staying low and all sorts of things.

"But first get healthy."

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