The star quarterback played through a shoulder injury over the last month of the 2016 season.

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It was a small circle of folks in and around the Washington football program that were aware of the condition of Jake Browning’s right shoulder late last fall. The Huskies worked hard to keep the star quarterback’s injury a secret.

Wide receiver Dante Pettis was one of the few who knew what Browning was playing through over the final month of the season.

“We could tell. Some people thought he was just making bad passes, but we could tell it was hurting him,” Pettis said. “And we obviously appreciate that he worked through it.”

For Pettis, there was never a question of whether Browning would play through the injury.

“There’s no way — nothing’s going to keep him out of the game,” Pettis said.

Spring ball is a different story. After having surgery in January to repair his throwing shoulder, Browning didn’t do much during the Huskies’ first practice Monday morning.

He was in his No. 3 practice jersey, went through stretching with teammates and made some light warmup tosses to a trainer on the sideline, but Browning was held out of team passing drills. Instead, as other quarterbacks took the snaps, he stood alone some 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage, reading the defensive alignments and then mimicking the footwork and throws and as the play unfolded.

There’s no need to rush Browning back now, more than five months before the Sept. 1 season opener at Rutgers. UW coach Chris Petersen said there will be a “gradual buildup” with Browning’s workload this spring.

“We’re not trying to win spring ball,” Petersen said Monday. “We’re trying to get guys ready to improve each day, so we’ve had this planned since right after the season, how we wanted to use him.”

Browning was not made available for interviews after practice Monday. He let teammates speak on his behalf.

Browning’s limitations meant more snaps for K.J. Carta-Samuels, the primary backup QB the past two seasons, and redshirt freshman Daniel Bridge-Gadd.

“For me it’s amazing to just get those opportunities and see myself have the ability to progress even more,” Carta-Samuels said. “So I love the opportunity. I’ll be excited for him to get back, because he challenges me and we challenge each other. …

“I just want to become the best quarterback I can be to help out this team in the way that I can.”

Another final four march?

The Huskies got a taste of big-time college football last fall. They’re hungry for more.

Pettis attended the Gonzaga-Xavier basketball game Saturday in San Jose, Calif., with former UW receiver Connor Griffin, who is also a former member of the Gonzaga basketball team. Watching the Bulldogs celebrate their first Final Four berth brought Pettis back to the Huskies’ celebration of their Pac-12 title in Santa Clara last December — a win that propelled UW into the college football final four.

“Just seeing Gonzaga up on the stage after they won, I was like, ‘Man, that was a really good feeling. We’ve got to get back there,’” Pettis said.

Looking back, Pettis described the 2016 season as “crazy” and “surreal.”

“I don’t think anyone actually knew what we could go out and do,” he said. “So to go out and actually do everything that we accomplished, that was pretty special.”