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Viks big guns hope to return

RB Mu'Ammar Ali expects to play; QB Sawyer Smith iffy

How can a player join a college football team, and four days later he plays?

Easily, Portland State quarterback Sawyer Smith says. Transfer QB Brian White joined the Vikings last week and played against Montana because 'everybody accepted him pretty quickly.'

No jealousy? Resentment? The guy hadn't paid his dues in practice with the Vikings.

'He's a good guy, easy to get along with, a good leader,' Smith says. 'He has an aura of confidence. He knows he's a good football player. He made some great football plays (against Montana). Guys watching him play said, 'Hey, we'll accept him if he helps us win games.' '

It'll be interesting to watch the quarterback situation at Portland State, which travels to Montana State on Saturday. Smith, who has missed the past two games with a bruised tailbone, could be cleared to play. If not, White will start ahead of Rob Freeman, coach Tim Walsh says.

Meanwhile, running back Mu'Ammar Ali says he 'absolutely' expects to play after missing the first five games with a broken scapula. He and Smith nearly played last week against Montana, when White led the Vikings back in a 26-20 defeat. Both need clearance by team physician Dr. Mark Colville to play.

Walsh says White could have his grasp on about 80 percent of the offense by Saturday. Does the new QB on the park blocks threaten Smith's place as starting quarterback?

'I'm not worried about that,' Smith says. 'I'm worried about getting healthy and getting back as soon as I can and not looking in the rearview mirror. When I'm ready to play, I'll start playing. I think I'll be able to play (Saturday).'

Walsh admires Smith for not rushing himself back. 'He's really mature,' the coach says. 'He understands what it takes to play quarterback. He won't put his teammates in a (bad) situation if he's only 75 percent or 80 percent.'

Smith, who was injured Sept. 16 at California, has been doing some workouts and practices, but he says 'sharp pain' in his tailbone and hip joint had not gone away before the Montana game. If the pain persists, he probably won't play Saturday.

'I'm the only one who can make that decision,' he says.

It was eight weeks ago that Ali was hurt in practice. It's a rare football injury - the shoulder blade, back of the shoulder - but the bone has calloused, and Ali says the strength in his shoulder has been getting better.

Without being able to lift weights and exercise with his upper body much, 'I lost a significant amount of weight, 13 to 14 pounds,' he says.

Ali has been doing drills and running through plays in practice without contact. Walsh says the first hit against Montana State will be important - how does Ali react, and does the shoulder bother him?

'It ain't so much being afraid,' Ali says. 'It's in the back of my mind. I've never had a serious injury before. You can't go into a college game tiptoeing it, being timid. That's when you get hurt.'

The Vikings have sorely missed Ali's explosiveness, running ability and speed.

'If you watch Mo run, you can see how smooth and fluid he is,' Walsh says.

'It's very frustrating not to be out there with my teammates,' Ali says. 'I'm a team player, I want to bleed and sweat with my team.'