Vincent Joseph was scared. The USC sophomore could not breathe after he was tackled while returning a kickoff against Nebraska.
Joseph was taken from the field on a stretcher, and then transported to a hospital. On the team's return flight to Los Angeles he wore a neck brace.
"It was real painful and it was scary too," Joseph said Monday, adding, "It's just my throat is real sore and I have a really big crick in my neck."
Joseph was out of the brace but he remained stiff because of a bruised larynx and a neck sprain. He was scheduled to have an MRI exam Monday night and will miss Saturday's game against Washington State. Running back C.J. Gable, who returned kickoffs last season, will resume that role against the Cougars, Coach Pete Carroll said.
The speedy Joseph, limited this week to a liquid diet, was just happy to have come out relatively unscathed in light of the circumstances surrounding Kevin Everett, a Buffalo Bills tight end who suffered a spinal cord injury while making a tackle on a kickoff against the Denver Broncos.
Joseph said he was not injured when he was initially tackled. He said the impact spun him around, causing him to fumble, and that his chin strap came undone when he hit the turf. Joseph said his neck snapped back and a defender elbowed him in the throat.
Joseph said his family was "three times as much" concerned when the game stopped because of his injury, and that his mother has been under hospital care for the last year because of a heart condition.
"My dad was calling. My grandmother was calling . . . as soon as my plane touched down they were at my house," he said.
To speed up games and encourage returns, the NCAA changed a rule this year and moved kickoffs back five yards to the 30-yard line.
Joseph did not blame the new rule for his injuries. "I don't think there's a problem with it," he said. "It's just basically it was just that night, that situation that happened to me. Hopefully, it's not going to happen again."
USC's Alfred Rowe said he lost consciousness after a collision while playing on special teams against Nebraska. Rowe suffered a concussion and is expected to miss at least a few days.
Tailback Allen Bradford and his father met with Carroll in his office after practice to discuss the sophomore's limited role so far this season.
Bradford did not play in the first half against Nebraska. He has gained 19 yards and scored a touchdown in 14 carries.
"It's kind of made my game better because I'm playing angry," Bradford said. "Coach Carroll just said to hold on and be strong about the whole situation. When I get my shot be ready."
Bradford said he was not considering transferring. "If I left I would feel I gave up on myself. I would feel less of a man. I'm just not that type of person. I came this far and I have to finish it out."
Safety Taylor Mays, who is Jewish, will play Saturday, which is Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement begins Friday at sundown and ends Saturday at nightfall. Kickoff is at 5 p.m.
"I've got to play," he said last week.
Mays said he respectfully acknowledged the feelings of others who do not participate in work or activity as part of their observance of the day.
"I'm just concerned with the people that are close to me -- family members, friends and coaches," he said. "I'll be all right."
Linebacker Brian Cushing (ankle) practiced and Carroll said he would start against Washington State if he continued to get through workouts this week. . . . Linebacker Clay Matthews practiced with a cast on his hand to protect a broken thumb suffered against Nebraska.