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USC FOOTBALL

Stafon Johnson grins as he is discharged from hospital.

Doctors are upbeat about the tailback's recovery, but they won't make any predictions about his future in football.

October 15, 2009|Gary Klein

Stafon Johnson wore a black USC sweatshirt, a red Trojans beanie and, when the subject turned to an eventual return to football, his signature grin.

The USC tailback on Wednesday made his first public appearance since suffering a season-ending throat injury in a Sept. 28 weightlifting accident.

He did not speak or take questions, but he looked fit and mostly upbeat at a news conference at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Flanked by his mother, Kim Mallory, and the surgeons who operated on him, Johnson listened as the doctors mentioned speech, swallowing and breathing therapy ahead.

Discharged from the hospital, he remains outfitted with a breathing tube in his throat.

Dr. Ryan F. Osborne said it was "a bit too early for us to make any definitive statements," regarding Johnson's speech. "But at this point in time we are happy with the progress that he has made thus far and we're very optimistic for his longtime prognosis."

Johnson suffered a fractured larynx and severed vocal cord among other injuries when a bar carrying 275 pounds slipped from his hands and fell on his neck during a workout at USC. Dr. Jason S. Hamilton reiterated that Johnson's physique and will helped him survive an incident that might have killed others.

"When I initially evaluated him, I was surprised that he had made it even to the hospital at all," Hamilton said. "I think that's a testament that he's been fighting from the beginning and his recovery is following suit with that and that's why he's made such progress."

When asked about Johnson's prognosis for playing football again, Osborne said, "The majority of that is in the hands of Stafon. . . . I don't think any physician can tell a player if they're going to play again."

Mallory thanked all who sent messages, flowers and prayers to the family.

Reading from a statement written by Johnson, his uncle Kregg Anderson said, "This is not the end of anything. This is the beginning of things to come. I will be back soon. We are fighting on."

Johnson then quickly penned another message that was read by his mother.

"Fight on," it concluded. "Beat the Irish."

--

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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