Nick Pickett got used to playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder.
He played through the injury when it occurred in high school and started at safety as a true freshman for Oregon before finally having surgery on his shoulder once the season ended.
“It was something I adjusted to, sometimes my shoulder would pop out in a game but I got back out there,” Pickett said.
Pickett is working out with trainers as the Ducks go through spring practices, but expects to be fully cleared in time for fall camp.
“They said I will come back even stronger than I was before, so I am looking forward to that,” Pickett added.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound Pickett is doing most of his work this spring in the film room.
“I keep his mind sharp,” UO safeties coach Keith Heyward said. “We have Jeopardy in the meeting room where I am asking questions. I don’t do a lot of monologue talking, I ask questions and they have to answer.”
The safeties room features seniors Ugochukwu Amadi and Mattrell McGraw, as well as sophomores Pickett, Billy Gibson and Brady Breeze. True freshman Steve Stephens enrolled in time to participate in spring practices while Jevon Holland will arrive in the fall.
“I’m looking at film to see how to get better, getting back in the playbook,” Pickett said. “Getting back to the basics and looking at little things to improve on while helping out the younger guys as well. We all help each other out so it is easier for me being in my second year to get a hold on everything.”
Coach Mario Cristobal wants players like Pickett and center Jake Hanson, who are not able to participate in practice due to injuries, to work on their mental game.
“When you take a step back and watch film and observe others, you can make yourself a much better player,” Cristobal said. “Or you can sit back and enjoy that time and you will get worse. We are just as demanding now on guys injured or recovering from injury as if he was playing.”
Pickett earned a spot in Oregon’s defensive rotation out of fall camp and had two tackles in his debut when the Ducks defeated Southern Utah 77-21. The following week, he got the start against Nebraska and remained in that role against Wyoming and Arizona State.
“I knew I had the opportunity, but I didn’t know it would come so soon,” Pickett said. “I played in the second quarter of my first game. I figured I would work my way in.”
Pickett suffered a knee injury against the Sun Devils that forced him to miss games against California and Washington State, but returned to get a season-high six tackles in a loss at Stanford. He finished with 22 tackles and three pass breakups in 11 games.
“I was able to adjust physically during fall camp so when I got on the field, it was not much of a problem,” he said. “It is a big difference in college, but it was not that hard to adjust. I got way more comfortable during the season being out there playing physical and playing fast.”
Pickett and cornerback Deommodore Lenoir were teammates at Salesian High School in Los Angeles before playing alongside each other again at Oregon.
“We are motivating each other to get better so we can get on the field and play together,” Pickett said.
Follow Steve Mims on Twitter @SteveMims_RG.