- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Four days and one practice removed from a neck injury, Tommy Rees is feeling good about his health and is confident that he will be able to lead Notre Dame into Air Force this Saturday without any roadblocks.
"I feel good. Meeting with the training staff and doctors and getting cleared to participate yesterday was big," Rees said Wednesday. "Felt good out there and continue to progress throughout the week. I'm really happy with where I'm at."
Rees insisted that there are no lingering effects from what coach Brian Kelly had described as a neck strain, saying he will be full go for his eighth start of the season for the 5-2 Irish.
"Not really. I thought we did a good job communicating with the coaches and training staff on what we wanted to do and what we needed to accomplish yesterday," the Lake Bluff, Ill., native said. "It was a good first day. I'll continue to get more work throughout this week and get ready to play this weekend."
Rees left the third quarter of Notre Dame's 14-10 win over USC last weekend after taking a vicious sack from Trojan linebacker Lamar Dawson. He went to the locker room and later reappeared back on the sideline wearing a sweatshirt for the rest of the game.
The Irish offense struggled immensely without its senior quarterback, totaling just one first down on seven drives with Andrew Hendrix running the unit.
"The first time you get put into those situations, it's tough," Rees said of Hendrix. "The first time I ever went into that situation was my freshman year against Michigan, and the first pass was an interception. It's a tough situation to be thrown into. I think he's handled it very well. Obviously he wants to play better, and he'd be the first guy to take accountability for that. But he's working hard in practice.
"Everyone on this team has confidence in his ability to go in there and play good football for us. I think it will help him realize how close he is to playing and what it takes. He'll continue to get better and play well."
Rees would not go into details as it relates to X-rays, MRIs or other initial exams, only admitting that there was some obvious discomfort after a hit that left him very slow to sit up and eventually stand on the field before walking lightly to the sideline under his own power.
Sitting out the majority of the second half against Notre Dame's arch rival was difficult, Rees said, confessing he was probably not the easiest patient to deal with for those 90 minutes or so as he lobbied to get back into the game.
"I got hit. Obviously any time you're dealing with a neck or something like that, it can get pretty testy on what's going on," Rees said. "When it bends one way, it's not the most comfortable thing. You meet with the training staff, communicate what's going on and move forward from there."