Auburn defensive line Carl Lawson returned to practice Tuesday night.
Coach Gus Malzahn announced the plans for Lawson’s return at his weekly press conference previewing the Ole Miss game earlier in the afternoon.
Lawson hasn’t played since suffering a hip injury in the first half of the Tigers’ season-opener against Louisville. Malzahn offered very little information about the sophomore’s status since September.
“Carl Lawson will practice for first time today, which should give our guys a lift,” Malzahn said. “We’ll see where he’s at. I’m not going to say right now he will play this Saturday, but the fact that he’s out there practicing I think will be good from a leadership standpoint if nothing else.”
While Lawson worked with trainers the last month to stay in shape, Malzahn isn’t sure how quickly he will be in ‘game shape’ with having been out to since early September.
His status for Saturday won’t be determined until later in the week after the coaching staff has a chance to evaluate how he practices.
“There’s nothing like getting out there and actually practicing,” Malzahn said.
Malzahn noted that Lawson received the all-clear to do “everything” in practice following a meeting with Dr. James Andrew last week.
Defensive coordinator Will Muschamp was the first to hint Lawson might be close to returning in his press conference last week.
On Sunday night, Muschamp echoed Malzahn’s comments that Lawson’s return would give the defense’s morale a left following a “gut-wrenching” loss to Arkansas.
“If we get him back on the practice field this week it will be a huge bonus for us from a mental standpoint as much as anything,” Muschamp said.
Malzahn said Lawson’s presence on the last two road trips has even had a positive impact on the team.
“He's one of our leaders, not just one of our defensive leaders but he's one of our team leaders,” Malzahn said. “His teammates have a lot of respect for him, as well as coaches do. We took him on our last two road games because of that. It's definitely helped us.”
Lawson hasn’t been healthy since a standout freshman season earned him Sporting News freshman All-American honors with 20 tackles, four sacks, and 7.5 for a loss.
He missed his entire sophomore season with a torn ACL, and played less than 25 minutes of this year’s opener before heading to the locker room with injury. He made quite the impression in his limited playing time with four tackles, two for a loss, one sack and three quarterback hits.
“He’s a competitor, it’s been tough for him,” Malzahn said. “He went through a lot considering the fact that last year he had to sit out, coming back and getting injured. He’s went through a lot. He’s a kid of character, a tough kid, so he’s excited to be back and help his team.”