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Feeling better, Lewis aims for improvement

Freshman quarterback Thaddeus Lewis was looking downfield at tight end Nick Stefanow when Virginia Tech's Aaron Rouse nailed him in the head with a helmet-to-helmet hit Saturday.

Now, recovered from what he called a "very, very, very mild concussion," Lewis is still looking forward, hoping to move on from the incident that knocked him out of Duke's 36-0 loss in Blacksburg, Va.

"It's out of my hands," Lewis said Wednesday, the first time he has spoken to the media since the hit. "I can't do anything about it, but I guess it's all just a part of football."

Lewis finally got a chance to watch tape of the play during Duke's film session Tuesday, and he said it looked a lot worse on tape than it actually was. Still, he admitted Rouse's hit knocked him out for 10 seconds and left him with headaches.

"I didn't really see it coming," Lewis said. "It actually wasn't that bad.. I was focusing on my teammate-I saw him catch the ball and then I got hit."

After several minutes down on the field Saturday, Lewis walked to the Duke locker room on his own power. Medical staff examined Lewis and performed an x-ray on his jaw.

When the x-ray came back negative, Lewis and his mother, who had rushed down from the stands to make sure her son was okay, breathed a sigh of relief. The quarterback returned to the field to be with his teammates.

"I was just hurting to be a cheerleader and not being out there helping my team," Lewis said. "The best thing I could do was try to lift up my team and encourage them to keep playing hard."

Because of the bye week, head coach Ted Roof gave his team off from practice until Wednesday. When the Blue Devils returned to the field, Lewis participated fully in the team's drills. Lewis said he would be ready to play by Duke's next game, at home against Virginia Sept. 30.

In that game and beyond, Duke will rely on the freshman to lead its offense, which has been held scoreless twice in three games so far this season. The Blue Devils' coaching staff needs Lewis, one of two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, to stay healthy.

"My coaches are telling me that I need to learn how to slide sometimes instead of going in head first," Lewis said.

Lewis has thrown for 463 yards so far this season, including 305 in Duke's 14-13 loss at Wake Forest. But he struggled before getting hurt at Virginia Tech, throwing for just 10 yards on six attempts. His longest completion of the game was on the pass to Stefanow-the play on which he was knocked out.

With Saturday's incident now in the rearview mirror-Lewis said even the headaches from the concussion are gone-Duke will lean on its freshman quarterback and his continued improvement as the team searches for its first victory of the 2006 season.

"I'll never forget it, but you can't think about it," Lewis said. "We just have to take it one game at a time and focus on the opponent and our game plan and just go out there on Saturdays and execute."

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