Safety Avery Sebastian returned to Memorial Stadium on Monday — one week after he was taken from the facility by ambulance.
Sebastian confirmed he sustained a concussion during the Bears’ Aug. 12 scrimmage that led to an overnight stay at the hospital, thanked fans for their support and said he’s excited to return . . . as soon as he is fully recovered.
”I’m actually feeling pretty good today,” Sebastian said. “First and foremost, I want to thank all the fans for sending out all the prayers and making me feel better. It’s greatly appreciated.”
Sebastian said he’s going through tests, getting lots of rest and “calming my symptoms.”
“I would love to play whenever. I just want to make sure I’m fully healthy and can get on the field safely,” he said. “I don’t want to risk anything by coming back too early.”
Sebastian isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for the Aug. 31 opener against Northwestern.
Coach Sonny Dykes is pleased that Sebastian appears to be on the mend.
“What we’re going to do is make sure we do it the right way and handle it carefully,” he said. “Anytime that somebody has an injury like he did, we want to bring him back slowly.”
Sebastian said he remembers the play . . . until the hit.
After that, he said, ”It was pretty much a blur. I don’t remember (being unconscious). It was brief. I didn’t feel any pain. I was just laying there, thinking about what happened. I could move my hands and fingers and I could look around.
“They just told me to relax. That was the big thing, just make sure I wasn’t doing anything.”
Dykes said he’s not worried the Bears are running out of linebackers in the wake of Nathan Broussard’s season-ending ACL injury and David Wilkerson getting his transfer release.
”The funny thing is, we’ve got plenty of depth. We’re going to be in so much nickel, playing five DBs,” he said. “Some of the game plan against Northwestern will be nickel, and some three-linebacker stuff as well.”
Indeed, during team drills Monday the Bears often lined up with four defensive linemen, five DBs . . . and just two linebackers.
LBs Nick Forbes (back) and Khairi Fortt (bruised knee) practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day.
DE Brennan Scarlett, who has done very little through camp while awaiting clearance on his troublesome left hand, is scheduled to see the doctor on Tuesday.
Redshirt freshman receiver Kenny Lawler is emerging as a more consistent pass target over the past week, Dykes said. “He’s starting to show up more and more and that’s a positive. At times in the spring I thought he was just as good as anybody out here. Seemed like he disappeared early in camp, and now he’s kind of started to emerge a little bit more.”
Dykes said Lawler was a bit “dinged” a couple weeks back, but now is starting to demonstrate how he can utilize his 6-foot-3 length. “He’s got really good ball skills,” Dykes said. “He can make some competitive catches and some stuff that’s difficult, make it look easy.”
Sophomore receiver Joel Willis will be given a shot at CB to help provide some depth. “He wanted to try to help the team . . . it’s something we’ve talked to him about from time to time. I think he’s decided now it’s what he’d like to do.
“We’re going to see if we can get him on the field some and develop him. He’s a good athlete. I want to see him on the field some place. I want to see him on more teams — he’s athletic.”
Junior walkon CB Isaac Lapite earned praise from Dykes, who called him “one of the most consistent” players in fall camp. “He’s been out here every day, he works hard, we’re playing him in a couple different spots — he’s playing in some nickel and corner both, and has done a good job in both of those.
“He’s a very valuable player for us right now.”
Sophomore DE Puka Lopa was back at practice, having missed time with a variety of minor ailments and for while finishing some academic responsibilities.
“Good to see him back,” Dykes said. “The guy plays with great energy. He’s a little under-sized (6-1, 240), but he’s very active, he runs well, he plays hard all the time. He’s a relentless guy.”
Junior CB Adrian Lee (ankle) and freshman DT Jacobi Hunter (shoulder) both missed practice. Lee could be back Tuesday and Hunter, after a visit to the doctor, likely will return in a limited-contact role.
Summer school ended last Friday, but several players still are finishing online classes. Dykes doesn’t seem worried. “Everything’s been good so far,” Dykes said. “We don’t anticipate anything bad.”
Cal began prep work for its opener vs. No.22 Northwestern and third-string quarterback Austin Hinder went to OC Tony Franklin on Monday morning, volunteering to handle scout-team duties.
Just as the Bears experimented last week with TE-turned-receiver Richard Rodgers at running back, they had receiver Chris Harper run the ball from the backfield several times Monday.
Dykes said the Bears hope to redshirt freshman WR Jack Austin.
The Bears won’t scrimmage on Saturday morning, as originally scheduled. Instead, Cal will practice at 11 a.m. before the Golden Bear Day fan event at 2 p.m. in Memorial Stadium.