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McKnight has freak injury

USC FYI

August 15, 2008|Gary Klein and David Wharton | Times Staff Writers

The quarterback suffered a freak knee injury after tossing a playful pass during warmups. The only returning starter on the offensive line has Rocky Mountain spotted fever. And many Trojans have struggled with a skin irritation in the groin area.

USC's rash of unusual injuries and maladies continued when a door closed on running back Joe McKnight's right hand late Wednesday night, sending him to the emergency room with two injured fingers.

McKnight practiced Thursday with his right middle and ring fingers taped, completing about half the workout. Afterward, the fingers bloodied as he approached the locker room, he said he had a slight fracture in the tip of one, but "it's not going to slow me down," from practicing or playing in the Trojans' Aug. 30 opener at Virginia.

Coach Pete Carroll, who had taken the team to see an IMAX screening of the movie, "The Dark Knight," does not believe that a dark cloud is following the Trojans.

"We're unflappable," Carroll said. "It doesn't even register."

McKnight's mishap occurred after the team returned from the screening at Universal CityWalk. It was not the result of horseplay, according to Carroll, McKnight and several players.

"It was just an accident," Carroll said.

Allen Bradford said McKnight had inadvertently placed his right hand in the doorjamb as the two running backs stood and talked outside a room. Bradford said someone on the other side of the door closed it, trapping and pinching McKnight's fingertips.

"It happened so fast I couldn't react," Bradford said.

Cornerback Shareece Wright was in the room next door and heard McKnight yell out in pain.

"Then I saw blood on the floor," Wright said.

Linebacker Chris Galippo did not witness the incident but he saw McKnight's hand. "It was pretty gnarly looking," Galippo said.

McKnight, who lost a nail, was taken to the hospital for X-rays then spent uncomfortable hours before dawn.

"It was bloody, it hurt, it's pain," he said. "You've got to fight through it."

Meanwhile, running backs coach Todd McNair said he received a text message about McKnight's incident and thought, 'Oh God. Not another one of those deals.' "

The Trojans have experienced their share.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez, though, appears to be on the mend. He was fitted with a lighter brace for his dislocated left kneecap and said he was ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation. Sanchez threw some passes on the sideline, but there remains no timetable for his return.

Starting left guard Jeff Byers, who is taking antibiotics for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, said he was feeling better and was surprised to learn that the late Dr. Norman Topping, president of USC from 1958 to 1970, helped develop the first effective treatment for the tick-borne disease.

"That's kind of ironic and cool," Byers said.

On Wednesday, players had referred to the skin irritation that has afflicted the Trojans as "jock itch."

On Thursday, school officials sought to clarify, describing it as chafing and saying the discomfort has been caused by a combination of factors: a new kind of compression shorts; sweat; and, at least in some cases, players failing to wear undergarments beneath the aforementioned shorts.

Asked about the outbreak Thursday morning, Carroll chuckled and said, "You mean the jock itch? We're just about over the hump."

Quick kicks

Carroll said the Trojans' two most pressing issues remain the offensive line and determining Sanchez's status. . . . Linebacker Michael Morgan suffered a dislocated shoulder in a collision with Uona Kaveinga while making a tackle near the goal line. . . . Defensive end Everson Griffen (skin irritation and hamstring) and receiver Brice Butler (ankle) returned to practice. . . . Carroll will miss part of today's morning workout to attend services for Bo Taylor, the founder of the Unity One non-profit organization who died this week of cancer.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

david.wharton@latimes.com

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