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By TIM BOOTH AP Sports Writer
SEATTLE (AP) -- Much to his relief, Jake Locker no longer has to be a spectator.
Washington's star sophomore quarterback returned to practice this week after missing 11 days with a hamstring strain that had many fans concerned about his availability for the Huskies opener on Aug. 30 at Oregon.
"I don't expect to be anything less" than 100 percent, Locker told reporters on Tuesday.
The Huskies will need him at full strength for the critical opener against their Northwest rivals, and the start of three straight games against ranked teams to begin the season.
"I feel good. I got a chance to run around at practice yesterday (and) throw the ball," Locker said. "I'm still limited, but felt good."
Locker was injured on Aug. 7 during a non-contact practice drill. Any significant injury to be a crushing blow for a team already young at the skill positions on offense and facing a daunting schedule to start the season. After opening with the No. 21 Ducks, Washington returns home for consecutive non-conference matchups against No. 16 BYU and No. 4 Oklahoma.
Locker missed only one game last season, the week after he suffered a head injury against Oregon State and was taken off the field on a stretcher.
"I haven't had any pain. Everything I'm doing they want me to do it pain free. That was the case yesterday," Locker said.
Sprinting in practice is strictly forbidden until trainers give the go ahead, even if that means Locker doesn't truly test the hamstring until his first snap against Oregon.
"The key thing is to have him as close to full speed as possible, because even if he had not had a hamstring injury, the chances of most of the guys being 100 percent for game day is remote. There is always something nagging," Washington coach Tyrone Willingham said. "We'll do the right things, but we'll take it in that step-by-step, day-by-day process."
While his running is being restricted, Locker actually began throwing passes late last week, although not in pads. Getting more time working on the passing game is critical for Locker, who has only one receiver who has caught a pass in college.
Locker has stated a goal of completing 65 percent of his passes after connecting on just 47 percent of his throws last year.
He said much of his time on the sidelines in the last week was spent watching his receivers and how they run certain routes, hoping to lock that into memory for later.
Locker made up for his inaccuracy throwing the ball by breaking the Pac-10 record for rushing yards by a quarterback, finishing with 986 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns last year. He added 2,062 yards passing and 14 TDs, accounting for 59 percent of Washington's total offensive yards in 2007.
But Locker understands not to force anything until the season beings.
"I don't want to do anything that's going to re-injure it or push me back any," Locker said. "So when I feel comfortable with it I will (push it). If that's Saturday the 30th then that's when it will be."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-08-19-08 1620MDT