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Is James Conner targeting September return for Pitt football?

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With news of James Conner's Hodgkins Lymphoma diagnosis, he went from a player potentially targeting this year's NFL Draft to just trying to get healthy. Conner has been undergoing several treatments and by all reports, sounds like's doing very well.

The Trib's Jerry DiPaola recently updated fans on his status and by all indication, it sounds as if Conner is not only targeting a return this season, but a relatively early one. Specifically, it sounds as if he's potentially looking to late September:


Conner, who is undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkins lymphoma, has finished four of the 12 treatments and the tumors continue to shrink, Gallagher said.

...


He has vowed to beat the disease and Dr. Stanley Marks, one of the leading cancer doctors in the world, suggested that Conner could play this season.


One game Conner has circled on the Pitt schedule, just released Tuesday, is the Sept. 24 ACC opener at North Carolina. Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky is a high school rival from Mentor, Ohio.

ESPN recently noted Conner's progress as well, linking to DiPaola's story.

It's still far too early to get too excited about what Conner can bring to the team for 2016. I've really tried to stay away from that angle a bit because the focus should clearly be on restoring his health at this point. It just sounds sort of scummy to constantly be talking about what he can do for the program this year - he should be doing as much as he can for himself. That's to say nothing of the fact that even if he does play, we don't yet know how much he'd be able to. There are lots of things at play here.

But the very real truth is that if Pitt is able to get him back and playing quite a bit, he changes the dynamic of the team. The running backs held down the fort this year and 2015 starter Qadree Ollison was even the conference's Offensive Rookie of the Year. But adding Conner to the mix just makes them much stronger if he is in fact able to play.

More than even what he does for Pitt this year, I'm really hoping to see him play well enough to help restore the Draft stock that he had before. He deserves that and while it's great that it would help the Panthers in the process, after all he's been through, I'm hoping to see him reap the benefits of being a high draft pick for himself.

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