How Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton has handled injury status during UNC week
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How Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton has handled injury status during UNC week

Some players work on rehabilitation exercises with a trainer off to the side when they go down with an injury. They stay out of the way and focus on themselves and what they need to do to get healthy.

Not Notre Dame junior safety Kyle Hamilton.

He's rehabbing his injured knee, of course, but he's also taking on responsibilities bigger than himself. He's a team captain, after all. An All-American. Someone his teammates turn to. Guys like that don't quietly do their own thing during practice hours when they're not able to practice themselves.

“He’s been actively involved with coaching this week,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “This has been a coaching week for him. He’s done a really good job. He's working with the safeties. Totally engaged, being a captain.”

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There is still no timetable for Hamilton's return. He injured his knee in the first quarter of the game last week against USC ,and Kelly ruled him out for this week's game against North Carolina (4-3) during his Monday press conference.

Kelly has not issued a specific diagnosis for the injury, but he has said multiple times the feeling inside the facility is that Hamilton will be cleared to play at some point in the final month of the season. Until then, he'll continue his role as a player-coach.

"We had a conversation about what the expectations are when you're not playing," Kelly said. "You're a captain. You've got to be able to leave something at the end of the day if you're not practicing. For him, leave some knowledge. I think he has done a really good job of understanding that."

Kelly said Hamilton has spent an extensive amount of time with sophomore Xavier Watts, who has changed positions multiple times in the last two months from wide receiver to rover linebacker to safety. Watts is a special athlete, but that's a lot for anyone to go through. Hamilton has helped ease the transition this week.

As a result, Watts could be in line for his first defensive snaps of the season. Kelly did not rule out Watts as a possible fifth option at the position behind seniors Houston Griffith, DJ Brown, Isaiah Pryor and junior KJ Wallace.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football junior safety Kyle Hamilton
Hamilton has helped coach the Irish defense while out with an injury. (Chad Weaver/BGI)

Kelly said Hamilton has shown a great deal of maturity this week. He has provided a presence Notre Dame's safeties could certainly stand to lean on with the impending challenge of stopping a rather potent Tar Heels offense looking this weekend.

North Carolina ranks No. 14 nationally in total offense at 471.1 yards per game. The Tar Heels can gash opposing defenses through the air with the Sam Howell to Josh Downs quarterback-wide receiver connection, and running back Ty Chandler can do damage as well.

No. 11 Notre Dame (6-1) would certainly love to have its All-American safety on the field to defend that dangerous trio, but what's done is done. Hamilton is injured and won't be able to play. So given the circumstances, he has utilized his time in the most helpful manner possible.

Hamilton still has many years left to play this game, but perhaps this week he showed he's got a knack for coaching it too when there comes a day age, not a nagging knee injury, is what keeps him off the field for good.

"I think he's learning about himself," Kelly said. "Not being able to play changes your perspective."

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