SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese do not want to let their suspensions for the season opener against Navy on Sept. 1 in Dublin, Ireland, define their seasons.
Rees, a 20-year-old junior, and Calabrese, a 22-year-old senior, were suspended by coach Brian Kelly because of their arrests May 3 at an off-campus party.
Right now helping (junior Andrew Hendrix and sophomore Everett Golson) get ready for the first week is what my responsibility is, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Rees said. And when I get back out there in the mix of things, I’ve got to be sharp and on top of my game and let the coaches make the decision from there.
Calabrese, who shared time at inside linebacker with senior Dan Fox last season, said it will be hard watching instead of playing in the first game. But like Rees, the 6-1, 245-pound linebacker said he will be ready to contribute when Purdue comes to Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 8.
I learned from what happened, Calabrese said. Coach Kelly, he made a decision of me not playing in the first game, which I respect. I pretty much put myself in that situation. I just have to move on from that.
The second game is a huge game for us. It is home, the first game in our home stadium, and I just can’t wait to get started and play.
The two talked to the media after Saturday’s practice for the first time since their arrests.
Rees, who was originally charged with four misdemeanors, pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor.
He received a 30-day suspended jail sentence, was put on 11 months of probation, and wrote a letter of apology to the officers involved in his arrest at a house party.
Calabrese entered into a pretrial diversion program that calls for a misdemeanor intimidation charge against him to be dismissed if he performs 20 hours of community service and isn’t arrested again in the next year.
As the two suspended players wait to start playing, they are still contributing in practice.
Rees is acting as another coach for Hendrix, Golson and freshman Gunner Kiel, and Calabrese continues to run through every drill at inside linebacker as he will again split time with Fox.
(Calabrese) shows up to work every day, Kelly said. He gets a lot of reps, plays just like Carlo. From a football stand point, being around the team, he’s been great, as has Tommy.
Rees led Notre Dame to four straight victories at the end of his freshman season after starter Dayne Crist was injured. He took over the quarterback job at halftime of last year’s season-opening loss to South Florida.
Rees started the final 12 games of last season, going 8-4. He threw for 2,871 yards with 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Rees said not being in the mix for the starting job for the opener has been difficult, but he has no problem helping the quarterbacks he will compete with for the starting job for the rest of the season.
I’m confident I can go out there and play at a high level, Rees said.
Helping those guys is something anybody on this team would do if they were faced with the same situation. We’ve got a bunch of selfless guys. They just care about Notre Dame football and winning games.