ORONO — The University of Maine football team started practicing on Monday. On Friday, Spencer Carey finally joined his Black Bear teammates on the field.

Carey, a redshirt sophomore and Lawrence High School graduate, suffered a torn meniscus over the summer. The injury came with a ruptured bursa sac, and Carey had to wait until the swelling went down before he could begin practicing.

“Today is my first day back getting into drills,” Carey said during the team’s media day session Friday afternoon. “The training staff did a great job helping me get healthy and ready to go.”

Getting back on the field was Carey’s first step. Climbing back up the strong safety depth chart is the next. Carey is still listed as Maine’s number two strong safety — behind starter Darrius Hart — but head coach Jack Cosgrove said Carey will have to work hard to keep his spot when the Black Bears open the season at Boston College on Sept. 5.

“He really just got back into the grind today, at (Friday) morning’s practice. He had not gotten to that point where he could practice,” Cosgrove said. “It probably put him behind a little bit.”

The safety position is a question for the Black Bears this preseason. Starters Khai Al-Mateen and Patrick Pascal graduated. Davonte Burke, who started eight games last season, was lost to a season-ending injury working out this summer. Hart, a sophomore, started three games last season. Playing time is there for the taking if the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Carey is healthy enough to take it.

“We’re a young group, so we all have a shot. I have to keep getting better, get more comfortable with our coverages and better understand everything,” Carey said.

Carey redshirted the 2013 season, allowing him to workout and practice with the team but not play in any games. Last season, he saw action in the season opener, a 10-6 win over Norfolk State. The 2014 season was another season of learning, Carey said. He hopes to emulate the work ethic example set by players like Al-Mateen and Pascal, who helped Carey learn how to prepare and study film.

“We had some great seniors to look to,” Carey said.

Before Carey’s injury this summer, Cosgrove was impressed with Carey’s improvement in spring practices. Players often make a big improvement leap as they become sophomores, Cosgrove said, and Carey was no exception.

“From what I’m working off this spring, if he gets back to where he was, he can help us,” Cosgrove said. “He was slotted behind Darrius Hart as our second strong safety, so that’s the spot he’s at right now. He’s got to get back and earn more from there.”

Once Carey is back to 100 percent, Cosgrove expects him to contribute to the Black Bears on special teams, as well as the secondary. Carey is listed as Maine’s second long snapper, behind junior Jeremy Salmon, and could see other special teams roles.

“He was doing a lot of things on special teams for us,” Cosgrove said. “There’s a lot of opportunity there. There really is.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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