PITTSBURGH – Pitt fans received welcome news on Thursday afternoon: Quarterback Kenny Pickett is back, after missing last week’s game against Delaware due to injury. Pickett will be available when the Panthers (3-2, 0-1) visit Duke on Saturday night.

Coach Pat Narduzzi announced the news at his weekly press briefing. 

“You know I’m not going to talk about injury situations, but Kenny is back and ready to go. I’ll talk about guys who I for sure know are going to play, and Kenny will play,” Narduzzi said. “I think he’s 100 percent. He looks great.”

Narduzzi added that Pickett completed a full week of practice. 

A week after catching the game-winning touchdown pass against Central Florida, Pickett was unexpectedly held out of the Delaware game. Narduzzi said Pickett wasn’t 100% before the game. Pickett exited the Central Florida game late in the third quarter after landing hard on his throwing shoulder. He was able to re-enter the game on the next offensive series, but didn’t look as sharp.

Pitt struggled to score against Delaware, but Narduzzi said his team’s issues against the Fightin’ Blue Hens weren’t all due to Pickett’s injury.

“This game is half mental, half physical,” Narduzzi said. “And you can go out there and physically do what you’re supposed to do. But you better be into it. I mean, you gotta be into the game. There’s got to be emotion and energy, and I think we lacked that last Saturday. 

“You know, you just can’t throw your helmet out there and win a football game.”

Narduzzi wouldn’t shed light on who might start at running back against the Blue Devils (3-1, 1-0) on Saturday night in Durham. Last week, A.J. Davis and Vincent Davis were both held out of the game, with V’Lique Carter and Todd Sibley Jr. serving as the featured backs against the Fightin’ Blue Hens. 

Narduzzi did give some insight on a matter affecting players off the field. 

On Monday, Narduzzi was asked what he thinks about California’s “Fair Play to Pay” act, which had been signed by Governor Gavin Newsom just prior to Narduzzi’s weekly press conference. The bill, set to go into effect in 2023, will allow college athletes to profit off their name, image, and likeness. Narduzzi said he had “no comment” at the time, and added, “We’re not in California; neither is Duke.” 

With news that Pennsylvania state representatives Dan Miller and Ed Gainey, both of Allegheny County, have begun circulating a bill that would enact similar proposals to the California bill, Narduzzi had a little more to say about the topic on Thursday.

“I don’t know much about it. I don’t want to speak on something that I’m not educated on. If I’m educated on that, then Duke will kick our tail on Saturday if I’m reading about that stuff. It just seems like chaos.” Narduzzi said. 

Narduzzi went on to say he believes college athletes should be compensated, but he doesn’t like the idea of that compensation coming via endorsements. 

“I think our kids should be paid,” Narduzzi said. “I think there’s got to be some type of structure to it. It can’t be the local hardware store says, ‘I’m gonna get (a player), he’s my guy, I’m giving him a grand a week to play, he’s gonna do a commercial for me.’ I don’t know what they’re doing. But it can’t be like that.

“Because then someone else is going to come in and say ‘I want (that player) to play for me, we got a hardware store and a liquor store that’s gonna sponsor you.’ Where does it end? It’s recruiting. All I’d have to do is get all the boosters around, and then they’re offering, and it just sounds like it’s going to be chaos.”

Narduzzi said if things became that chaotic in college football, he’d leave and go to the pros. 

“If it becomes that chaotic, I’ll be going to the NFL, where at least there’s a salary cap and everyone’s playing with the same rules,” Narduzzi said. “I’ll be in the NFL. That stuff’s crazy. That’s about all I got to say about that topic.”

Amanda Filipcic-Godsey is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh. She covers Pitt football and basketball for CNHI Pa. newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaFGodsey. 

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