Andy Otten, Ricky Henderson and Matthew Jaensch are on track to return to full training this month.
Otten and Henderson had surgery to correct lingering issues in December. Otten had a minor procedure on his knee, while Henderson had an operation to remedy a bulging disc in his back. The pair is currently participating in select drills and will graduate to full training in the coming weeks.
Jaensch is close to completing his recovery from a knee reconstruction. Jaensch, 26, ruptured the ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) in his left knee against St Kilda in Round Seven last season.
The rebounding defender has completed a large portion of Adelaide’s pre-season, and General Manager of High Performance Brett Burton said he was pleased with Jaensch’s progress.
“Jaenschy is going along really well and had a good report from the surgeon the other day,” he said.
“He’ll be back into full training uninhibited in NAB (Challenge week) 2. It’s pretty much a 4-6 week build from there and then he’ll need to get final clearance from the surgeon (to play).”
Jaensch, Otten, Henderson and Charlie Cameron, who had minor surgery on his knee on Friday, are the only Crows who won’t be available for selection in the NAB Challenge because of injury.
Young forward Riley Knight (ankle) is unlikely to feature until late in the pre-season competition.
“Riley just rolled his ankle,” Burton said.
“That’s just a week-to-week proposition at the moment. We’re hopeful he’ll be able to play some NAB Cup, but we’ll see how he progresses over the next week or so.”
The Club will adopt a risk-free policy with promising midfielder Brad Crouch during the NAB Challenge after he pulled up with general soreness from Friday’s competitive training session.
Crouch, 22, hasn’t played at AFL level since fracturing his foot in the final round of last year’s pre-season competition.
"At this stage we don't want to take any risks with Brad. He's not sore in the foot, which is a good thing, it's just general soreness in terms of returning to play," Senior Coach Don Pyke told radio station FIVEaa.
"We'll see how he comes and we'll take a risk-free policy with him, because he was in good form last Friday and I think he's going to be a good player for us this year.
"(Soreness is) to be expected - he hasn't played for the best part of almost a year.
"He's a strong, fierce competitor and maybe he just went a bit overs on Friday. So we need to sometimes pull him back a little bit to protect him from himself at times."
A number of new Crows are pressing for NAB Challenge selection after strong pre-seasons.
Draftee Wayne Milera, who made his league debut for Central District last year, and West Adelaide premiership player Jono Beech have benefited from playing senior football.
“Wayne’s been in every training session. Obviously, we’ve modified him because he still is a first-year player, but he’s trained really and will be available for NAB Challenge,” Burton said.
“Jono Beech, obviously coming from senior footy, has a mature footy and is used to high training loads. He hasn’t missed a beat either.”
Adelaide’s second pick in last year’s AFL National Draft, Tom Doedee, has also made a smooth transition despite having limited exposure to the game.
“Tom Doedee has come more from a basketball background,” Burton said.
“He hasn’t had a lot of experience with football training loads, but he’s adapted really well too.”
Rookie-listed ruckman Paul Hunter was eased into his first AFL pre-season.
“Paul was coming off a PCL injury from late in the season up in Queensland last year,” Burton said.
“We’ve had to modify him a bit, but he’s back into full training now.”
Category-B rookies Hugh Greenwood and Alex Keath have had vastly different summers.
Former basketballer Greenwood completed a mini pre-season before the full squad returned to training, and has completed the majority of sessions.
Keath had a solid block of training pre-Christmas before taking time out to honour his cricket commitments. Keath is in the unique situation of having the opportunity to pursue a career in either sport.
“Hugh came to the footy club late last year and started to get a taste for it,” Burton said.
“He comes from that basketball background and you’re never quite sure how they’re going to adapt, but he’s been really good.
"He’s pretty much been uninhibited throughout the pre-season as well, so he’s got a good building block behind him and a good foundation. It’ll take a few years of training at AFL level for him to maximise his performance.
“Alex Keath has been a bit more challenging because he’s been playing cricket … but we’ve still got a fair bit of work into him.
“He’s away this week, but once he’s back and cricket season has finished it’ll probably be about a 4-6 week mini pre-season for him and then he would be available around mid-season.”
Adelaide will kick off its 2016 campaign in a NAB Challenge game against West Coast at Unley Oval on Saturday, February 21. Get more information or buy tickets here.
Burton said the pre-season competition was all about preparation for Round One and beyond.
“I’m sure ‘Pykey’ (Senior Coach Don Pyke) will be talking about the fact that we’re in this game to win games of footy, but with our eyes firmly on Round One,” Burton said.
“It’ll mean some guys will play limited game time to make sure they’re ready for Round One.”