Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK LSU safety Corey Thompson catches a pass in a drill during practice on Thursday.

Most athletes are tentative when returning to activity following a significant knee injury.

Just don’t include Corey Thompson in that group.

“Most people, they’re a little bit apprehensive about going out there for the first time off ACL surgery,” the LSU defensive back said. “I was pretty good. If it hurt, it hurt. If it didn’t, it didn’t.”

Thompson is back.

The junior safety from Texas has recovered — mostly — from offseason surgery to his left knee. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee during LSU’s win over Texas A&M.

He was cleared to return workouts in May — just in time to rejoin the team for the summer. He jumped right in, too.

“Corey looks really good after coming off of that knee injury,” defensive back Dwayne Thomas said. “Very healthy. He’s got his upper body stronger this offseason. Pretty sure we’ll have him back 100 percent for the season.”

Several teammates have suggested that Thompson isn’t quite fully healthy just yet. Thompson said he’s returned to 100 percent, but later admitted that he’s suffering from occasional swelling in the knee.

It hasn’t stopped him from practicing, though.

He’s been seen at practice working with most of the starting secondary. Where he fits in isn’t completely clear.

Either way, Thompson is expected to see substantial playing time at safety, a position of some uncertainty for the Tigers.

Jalen Mills appears to be the signal-caller of the group, but he was suspended during the summer and is dealing with a pending court case. Mills was charged with simple battery for allegedly punching a woman in a May incident at his apartment. He plans to plead not guilty.

Meanwhile, injury-plagued senior safety Ronald Martin doesn’t have a full season of starts under his belt, and sophomore Rickey Jefferson struggled at times when thrust into the rotation at the end of the season.

Martin and Mills might be the favorites to start Game 1 at the two safety spots, but the Tigers use five and six-defensive back formation often.

“We’re pretty deep right now. I expect a lot of us to be playing, rotating,” Thompson said.

Thompson started five games at safety last season before the injury against A&M. The injury was, at first, reported as minor.

Why? Because he returned to the game against the Aggies.

“Funny,” Thompson said. “When I hurt it, I didn’t even know I heard it. I stayed out there for another four plays. But I really hurt (it) when I was celebrating. I saw the play I did it. It didn’t affect me for another couple plays.”

Like many ACL victims, Thompson has had to adjust to the brace he must now wear on the previously injured knee. He said he’s “doing well” with it on.

He’s come back stronger than ever. After all, he had six months to work out his upper body, a frame that looks bigger than ever.

He had to watch LSU beat Iowa from the sidelines at the Outback Bowl, and he spent spring practice watching film to “make sure I learned the new stuff we put in.”

So far, he’s impressing teammates — even if he isn’t a full 100 percent healthy.

“Corey is a freak. He can jump, like, a 40-inch vertical,” cornerback Tre’Davious White said. “He’s a real explosive guy.”

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