Suspended Rees lending help wherever he can

Suspended Rees lending help wherever he can
August 9, 2012, 2:28 pm
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The circumstances are different, but the rhetoric is the same.

Tommy Rees won't start Notre Dame's season opener against Navy in Dublin, Ireland on the first day of September. He's suspended for the game, the result of a "set of poor decisions," as coach Brian Kelly said, made at an off-campus party last May. At Wednesday's practice, Rees didn't take a single snap in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills.

Rewind to last season, when Dayne Crist was benched for all but a handful of plays after being yanked following a rough first half in Notre Dame's season-opening loss to USF. Despite his demotion and infrequent playing time, Crist was held in high esteem for his attitude and work ethic.

"Even if he's not out there, he's still a leader on the team," former running back Jonas Gray said last October. "A lot of guys look up to him."

"Great guy, great leader," added Michael Floyd in December. "For all the stuff that went on in his career here, he still held his head up high and stayed a good friend to me and a good teammate to everyone."

Rees' career path may not follow that of Crist, who transferred to Kansas following the conclusion of Notre Dame's regular season last year. But, for now, the explanations of Rees' fellow quarterbacks as to how helpful he's been sound somewhat familiar.

"He's been such a positive influence on all three of the younger guys," Andrew Hendrix said. "Having Tommy back there at all times is really an invaluable resource that we have."

Everett Golson, who's been pegged by some as the favorite to win the starting gig, rooms with Rees and said the junior has been very accessible when it comes to helping him out. But, at the same time, Golson acknowledged how odd it is for Rees to watch while nearly the entire team moves forward without him, at least for the first game.

"It is awkward," Golson said. "I praise Tommy for that, because I don't know if I could really do that. Tommy's a great guy."

And Gunner Kiel, a true freshman, is trying to soak up as much of Rees' experience with the Notre Dame offense as he possibly can.

"He knows so much about the game," Kiel said. "I talked to Tommy outside of football, and he says he wants to be a college coach. He definitely has the ability and mind for it. It's great having him in there to teach us all the stuff he knows."

It's likely too early to peg Rees as nothing more than a coach this season. Maybe that's in his future -- Hendrix agreed with the notion that Rees would make a fantastic college coach.

But Kelly has said Rees can "attempt to climb the depth chart" after the Navy game, and the third-year coach has also said he won't hesitate to make a switch at quarterback if he isn't pleased with the level of play from that position in the season opener.

So the door isn't completely shut on Rees starting another game for Notre Dame in the future. He's apologized for his arrest, which resulted in a pair of guilty pleas on misdemeanor charges. While he's not directly a part of Notre Dame's quarterback battle, Rees' teammates see a player who's still doing everything he can to help.

"That's the past," Hendrix said. "We're just moving forward."