Each day, it seems, another player shows up at USC football practice with a pained expression and an uncomfortable gait, feet spread wide, stepping gingerly across the turf.
They are victims of an ailment that has swept through the team during training camp, something that coaches refer to as "a skin irritation."
The players call it "jock itch."
While dislocated kneecaps and high ankle sprains draw more attention, Coach Pete Carroll said he has never seen anything like the minor outbreak that caused key players to miss practice Wednesday.
As much as 25% of the team has been affected by the apparent run of tinea cruris, kicker David Buehler estimated. The condition seems to have spread by way of new compression shorts, or tights, worn under their football pants.
Tailback Joe McKnight and receiver Travon Patterson were sufficiently afflicted to spend Wednesday's practice on the sideline.
"It burns," Patterson said.
In recent years, the team has battled more serious incidents of staph infection, employing measures such as washing uniforms in hotter water.
Also in the non-traditional injury category, defensive end Wes Horton said he and teammate Christian Tupou got food poisoning last weekend from salmon they ate on campus.
The illness passed quickly and the Trojans are hoping for similar luck with what Carroll delicately referred to as chafing.
"We've had to adjust to some new equipment that we're wearing that didn't work out right," he said. "It's funny how that happened."
Maybe not so funny to the players.
"Sometimes they can't walk," said tailback Stafon Johnson, who could giggle because he has remained itch-free. "I don't know what it is, but I'm staying away from it."
On the mend
As if burning sensations and upset stomachs weren't enough, offensive lineman Jeff Byers has been diagnosed with Rocky Mountain spotted fever and is being treated with antibiotics.
Byers, a senior starter from Colorado who has been held out of contact drills, said he was happy to know what had caused a variety of symptoms, including an enlarged spleen.
"They tested for some stuff that is not good, things no 22-year-old wants to have," said Byers, who traced the illness to a tick bite he got while attending his sister's wedding in the mountains this summer.
Byers hopes to be cleared for contact soon and return to his spot at left guard. The Trojans could use him after a tough time during Monday's scrimmage at the Coliseum.
"'It's a matter of being young and learning about the game," Byers said of an offensive line that is replacing four starters.
"You have to be focused every snap."
After the morning practice, quarterbacks spent about 30 minutes working with centers on snap exchanges. . . . With Byers, Michael Reardon (hip) and Matt Meyer (foot) unable to participate, sophomore Derek Simmons moved from the defensive line to the offensive line. . . . After reviewing Tuesday's scrimmage, quarterback Mitch Mustain said he felt better about the performances of the quarterbacks. "It didn't look really that bad on film," he said. "It's just, again, small stuff that looks a lot bigger on the field."