Auburn's Demetruce McNeal off sideline, but Dee Ford on it

Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal has returned to the practice field following surgery to help rid him of a staph infection.

But no sooner did the leader of the Tigers' secondary rejoin the team than the leader of its pass rush head for the sideline. Defensive end Dee Ford, the Tigers' top pass rusher, missed practice with a knee injury. AU coach Gus Malzahn declined to disclose details of the injury, but did indicate that it is minor.

A healthy season for Ford is crucial to a rebuilding Tigers defense. His six sacks last season led Auburn and ranked sixth in the Southeastern Conference. Of the five SEC pass rushers that had more sacks than Ford last year, three are now in the NFL (Sam Montgomery, Damontre Moore, Jarvis Jones).

Malzahn indicated Ford should have no trouble being healthy for AU's season opener against Washington State.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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