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USC FOOTBALL REPORT

Carroll won't talk about NFL

January 15, 2008|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

On a day when USC's football team met for the first time since the Rose Bowl, Coach Pete Carroll refused to answer reporters' questions about a possible return to the NFL while all signs continued to indicate that offensive lineman Chilo Rachal was on his way to turning pro.

Carroll's name had been linked to at least two NFL openings last week while he was on vacation in Hawaii. He reportedly spoke with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank at least once about the team's search for a head coach. He also has been mentioned in media reports as a possible candidate to succeed Joe Gibbs with the Washington Redskins.

"I'm not talking about anything," Carroll said Monday upon his arrival at Heritage Hall. "I'm not commenting about anything."

Carroll said a few weeks ago that he would not respond to questions about NFL openings. He reiterated Monday that he would not address speculation because, "It's not fair," and any comments would only drive more speculation and force him to continually respond. "There's no point in it," he said.

Rachal, a fourth-year junior who was All-Pacific 10 Conference, did not attend an afternoon team meeting at which returning players watched Rose Bowl highlights and were given off-season workout schedules.

Rachal had not met or taken phone calls from Trojans coaches in the week after the Rose Bowl. Last Thursday, Rachal's father told The Times that his son had decided to make himself available for the April draft.

Carroll said Monday that he had recently spoken to Rachal, who sat out three games and much of bowl preparation because of a knee injury.

"He has clearly expressed that he is interested in going to the NFL," Carroll said, later adding, "I was really disappointed we were not part of the discussion."

Today is the deadline for draft-eligible players to file paperwork with the league, though there is a grace period to rescind the application.

"There's plenty of time" for Rachal to change his mind, Carroll said.

Redshirt freshman Zack Heberer started twice in Rachal's place and is the front-runner to take Rachal's spot if he does not return.

"I feel like I could fill that role pretty well," Heberer said.

Junior linebacker Rey Maualuga, who also explored turning pro, said that he did not begrudge Rachal for his apparent exit.

"He made a good decision based on helping his family, but another year would have made him better," Maualuga said.

Linebacker coach Ken Norton, who has spoken to UCLA regarding a position on new Coach Rick Neuheisel's staff, did not attend the meeting because of personal issues, Carroll said.

Maualuga said he was confident that Norton would remain at USC after sending him a text message last week.

"He texted me back, 'No one's going anywhere. Don't worry about it,' " Maualuga said. "I believe it. He sticks to his word."

Matt Meyer, an offensive lineman from Lincoln High in Stockton, has enrolled for the spring semester and will participate in spring practice. . . . Redshirt freshman safety Alfred Rowe had surgery to repair a chipped left kneecap but he said he would be ready for spring practice. . . . A source within the program said defensive back Vincent Joseph was academically ineligible. . . . Carroll said linebacker Kaluka Maiava had thumb surgery after the Rose Bowl.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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