A pulled hamstring isn't the worst ailment that can strike a running back in football.
"There are a lot more serious injuries," said Reggie Duncan, a Kansas University junior ball carrier. "You can tear an ACL, for instance. I'm lucky it's a hamstring."
Rationalization in pursuit of the end zone is a common sentiment in a sport where injuries are considered part of the game.
Duncan, who led the Jayhawks in rushing last season with 739 yards, has played in just three of KU's first six games this year. He strained the hammy in the season opener at Iowa State.
"I really don't remember how it happened," Duncan said. "I was running and I felt it pop."
Duncan missed three of the next four games, although he suited for all of them. When it came time to play, he simply couldn't make the wheel turn.
"I'd warm up and it would be throbbing and killing me," Duncan said.
Finally, he was able to play again Saturday at Baylor where he did not set the world on fire in gaining just 21 yards on nine carries. Then again, he had missed a lot of playing time.
"I got out there and did what I could, not being 100 percent," the 5-foot-9, 215-pounder from Killeen, Texas, said.
Duncan declined to estimate what percentage he operated under in Waco, but it clearly wasn't a high level.
"I'm out there I don't give a percentage," he said. "I'm just playing as much as I can. My leg felt good. I knew it would be sore after the game."
A completely healthy Duncan might inject much needed juice into a running attack that has been basically comatose except for quarterback Bill Whittemore.
Duncan showed flashes as a sophomore in 2001 exploding for 227 yards on 38 carries in an overtime win at Texas Tech and 168 yards and two touchdowns in the 2001 season finale against Wyoming.
"Reggie can do some things," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "He proved that last season."
Still, Duncan gained nearly half of his rushing yards in just two of the Jayhawks' 11 games.
"It's frustrating not being able to play," Mangino said, "and Reggie is no different. Right now he's a little rusty. He has to get that feel, to get in that groove."
Duncan is working hard at rehabilitation. He reports at 8 a.m. daily for an hour and a half of treatment. Then he shows up for more rehab in the afternoon. During practice, Duncan has spent more time watching than participating.
"I've been there mentally," he said. "I've been taking mental reps for when I can play again. I'm just taking it day by day."
Duncan suffered the same injury right hamstring strain during his senior year at Killeen (Texas) Ellison High, but still rushed for more than 1,200 yards. During his injury-free junior year, Duncan had run for more than 2,400 yards and 19 touchdowns.
"You put in all that hard work in the offseason," Duncan said, "and you want to be out there with your teammates. Football is like a job, but it's something I want to do."
That and be a part of a Kansas football renaissance.
"The past is past," he said. "It's a new KU. We want to play good ball."
Fresh legs: KU shortened its Tuesday and Wednesday practices by about 25 minutes.
Mangino said he wanted the Jayhawks, who play 12 straight weeks without a bye, to "have fresh legs on Saturday" when KU (2-4, 0-2 Big 12) plays host to Colorado (3-2, 1-0).
"We got everything done, though," Mangino said. "We just condensed everything and worked faster."
Injured Jayhawks: Receiver Mark Simmons is expected to play Saturday. The freshman left the Baylor game after taking a hard hit following a reception in the fourth quarter.
"We're 90-percent sure he's ready to go," Mangino said after Wednesday's practice. "He looked good today."
Mangino wasn't as sure about starting defensive tackle Travis Watkins, who has an injured foot. The coach said the sophomore was "day-to-day."
Injured Buffs: Colorado inside linebackers Aaron Killion (hamstring), Sean Tufts (ankle) and Drew Wahlroos (elbow) will miss Saturday's game, CU coach Gary Barnett said. Tight end Beau Williams (calf) also is expected to sit out.
Homecoming tidbits: Mangino will be busy tonight. After practice the coach will answer fans' question during his weekly "Hawk Talk" radio show at 6 p.m. Later, Mangino and team captains Justin Sands, Leo Etienne and Greg Cole will make an appearance at KU's homecoming rally. That event is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. at the south end of the Memorial Stadium parking lot.
The homecoming parade will start at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Adams Alumni Center and end at the Chi Omega Fountain.