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Conner returns to practice, could make trip to Auburn

At some point, Tony Conner will have some more work done on his knee. But his surgically repaired meniscus has healed enough to where Ole Miss’ junior safety could return to the field this season — as early as Saturday.

Conner returned to practice this week for the first time since tearing the meniscus in his right knee against Alabama on Sept. 19. Conner ran on grass Monday and practiced Tuesday and Wednesday on a limited basis, head coach Hugh Freeze said, leaving open the possibility Conner could travel for the 19th-ranked Rebels’ game against Auburn on Saturday (11 a.m., ESPN).

“Tony, it’s just how is he progressing? He’s been out of it a while,” Freeze said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think he got 12 snaps yesterday and I don’t know how many today, but we’ll kind of see how he goes throughout the week, how much swelling there is and all the things the (doctors) have to judge him. His (status) is day-to-day.”

SEC rules only allow 70 players to travel for road games, so that intel will have to come quickly. Freeze said a final decision on whether Conner makes the trip will likely be made either before or after practice today.

But it’s the first positive sign that Conner could return to the field at some point this season after suffering a far more serious tear than linebacker C.J. Johnson, who missed just two games after suffering the same type of injury against Florida on Oct. 3. Freeze said he didn’t want to speculate on if Conner would be back this season when asked last week, but it now seems like a foregone conclusion.

“He’s got an issue that’s going to have to be dealt with,” Freeze said. “It’s just a matter of how much he can tolerate and how aggravated it gets when he does play. But he’s definitely close to trying it and we’ll see from there. Whether it’s this week or next week, I don’t know yet.”

Nkemdiche cleared
Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche missed last week’s game against Texas A&M with lingering symptoms from a concussion, but Freeze said Nkemdiche has practiced all week and will play Saturday, at least for now.

Nkemdiche, who took a shot to the head on his lone offensive play against Memphis, was cleared to play last week but was held out when he woke up with headaches Saturday morning.

“Rob’s cleared to go as long as he doesn’t have any more symptoms,” Freeze said. “He’s looked good both days at practice. He’s ready to go.”