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Nebraska vs. UCLA, 9.14.13

Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez (3) is sandwiched by UCLA's Myles Jack (left) and linebacker Anthony Barr (11) in third-quarter action at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013.

Taylor Martinez has returned to the practice field.

Whether that means Nebraska’s senior quarterback also returns to the playing field remains to be seen, although Martinez appears on track to start Saturday, when the No. 25 Huskers play at Minnesota.

His return mostly depends on how Martinez, who hasn't played since Sept. 14 because of a turf toe injury, responds this week in practice.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said Monday that Martinez took limited reps in Sunday’s practice and had a good day. Nebraska didn't practice Monday.

“We’ll see if we can give him a little bit more on Tuesday and kind of play it by ear as the week goes on,” Pelini said at his weekly news conference. “We’ll see how it goes as the week goes on as he stresses it (the toe), and see where he is.”

Pelini has said he’s not worried about Martinez’s conditioning level but that Martinez will have some rust to shake off in other areas.

“It’s going to be getting back footwork-wise,” Pelini said. “How he feels comfortable doing all the different movements – play-actions, footwork and the things that he has to do throwing the football – and, obviously, feeling comfortable putting his foot in the ground.”

Nebraska has played the last three games with redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong starting and rotating with senior walk-on Ron Kellogg.

Pelini, though, wouldn't say if he’s planning on sticking with any kind of rotation once Martinez returns.

“A lot of ifs,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Junior wide receiver Kenny Bell said he’s “very optimistic” about Martinez returning this week.

“I would love to have Taylor back,” Bell said. “I've always wanted Taylor as our quarterback, but at the same time, I've got just as much faith in Tommy and Ronny. They've been playing football for us.

“Whoever’s going to be healthy is who I want out there Saturday. If (Martinez) is not ready, we’ll compete without him, but it’d obviously be nice to have him back.”

* TARGET THIS: Bell is none too happy with the NCAA’s new targeting rule, and he’s not afraid to say so.

Bell was penalized in last year’s Big Ten Championship Game for his punishing block on a Wisconsin defensive back, a hit near the shoulders that, under this year’s new rules, would've likely led to Bell’s ejection.

Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste was the first Husker player to fall victim to the new rule, when he was ejected from the Huskers’ game at Purdue for a controversial hit under a very subjective rule.

That led to Bell sounding off.

“We signed up to play football,” Bell said. “We know exactly what we signed up to do. And for Stanley to get ejected over that, it blows my mind. It’s really disappointing.”

Bell, who was penalized for celebrating a touchdown in Nebraska’s Oct. 5 game against Illinois, said he’s saddened by rules that are “trashing” the game.

“You hit someone too hard now, you're going to get a penalty. You could be ejected,” he said. “It’s embarrassing.”

* PRICE IS RIGHT: Among the players with a chance to see increased playing time in light of the season-ending injury to guard Spencer Long is Givens Price, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound sophomore.

Senior tackle Jeremiah Sirles said Price has been playing well lately after a rough start to the season, dating to fall camp.

“Something clicked with him the last three or four weeks,” Sirles said. “He’s been playing really good football. He’s coming off the ball, good footwork, good technique. He can move people. I think he’s finally starting to grow into his own body. He’s still a young kid.”

Price, from Houston, was a mere 16 years old when he joined Nebraska’s program in 2011 and redshirted. He turned 19 on Oct. 4.

“He’s really starting to come along and be that great player we know he can be,” Sirles said. “With some pushing by the coaching staff and from our line and from our room, I think he has a chance to really get a mix into that rotation.”

Mike Moudy is the projected starter at right guard in place of Long, with Ryne Reeves also in the rotation.

* INJURY UPDATE: Pelini said tight end Jake Long, who missed Nebraska’s last game because of injury, is doing some field work this week, and that his playing status to similar to that of Martinez.

“We’ll see how the week goes and how he feels,” Pelini said.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Jamal Turner has no issues, Pelini said, after he was bothered by a hamstring injury the week of the Purdue game.

Reach Brian Rosenthal at 402-473-7436 or brosenthal@journalstar.com. You can follow him on Twitter @HuskerExtraBR.

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