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California defensive linemen Matt Malele and Rulon Davis learned Tuesday that their foot injuries from the No. 6 Golden Bears' latest victory aren't as serious as they feared. Coach Jeff Tedford said Malele has a strained muscle in his foot, while Davis has a sprained foot. Both players were feared to be lost for the season after Cal's 42-12 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday, but Tedford said they could return to practice soon. "I don't know what that means for this week," Tedford said. "But hopefully they'll be very diligent with the rehabilitation and be back as soon as possible." Tedford also said receiver DeSean Jackson probably won't catch a pass in practice this week to preserve his sprained thumb, which has limited his effectiveness. The news was particularly good for Malele, who thought he had torn tendons on the base of his foot. The senior defensive tackle is the only returning starter on Cal's young defensive line, and the Golden Bears (3-0) rely on his steady presence. "He's our field general," defensive tackle Mika Kane said. "He settles us down, and he knows the plays for every guy on the field. Hopefully, if he's not in, I can step up and be that guy." Cal's pass rush has been much more effective than expected, generating 10 sacks in three games. Both Malele and Davis, a junior defensive end who was thought to have a stress fracture, have started all three games this season for the Bears, who open Pac-10 play Saturday at home against Arizona.
If Malele and Davis can't play, several Cal youngsters are ready to assume prominent roles — including freshmen Derrick Hill and Cameron Jordan, two of the program's top recruits. Kane also is ready to resume full-time duties after sitting out most of the last two games with a concussion. "There's a lot of depth on the defensive line," said Tad Smith, a sophomore end who could start in Davis' place. "There was a lot of competition coming into the season, and the result of that is a lot of guys who are ready to come in." Jackson returned a punt for a touchdown for the sixth time in his career in the season opener against Tennessee, and he had a 73-yard run for a score against Colorado State. But the junior has just 14 catches for 112 yards this season, trailing Lavelle Hawkins in both categories. "We need to let this settle down a little bit," Tedford said. "I think it's been real frustrating because it's something he relies on, his thumb. It's not a break, just a nagging thing for him."