October 1, 2008

Practice Insider: Maualuga forced to watch

Rey Maualuga stood in the middle of the field, but he wasn't patrolling the field.

Maualuga's watching, and he just might need to get used to it.

The Trojans' all-American middle linebacker was sidelined Tuesday with a sprained MCL, and USC head coach Pete Carroll called him "questionable" for Saturday's game against Oregon.

"It feels good, but it's restricting me when I run," Maualuga said. "I want to come back, but I have to take it day-to-day. I really don't know what's going to happen."

Maualuga met with doctors after practice Tuesday for his first real examination since injuring the knee at Oregon State. After the evaluation, Maualuga said everything was still the same - which meant nothing was certain.

Still, Maualuga said, he's played with pain before, and he wants to get in one last crack at the Ducks.

"It sucks," he said. "It sucks just having to watch practice right now. It sucks not being with your team. We lost last year to Oregon, and I really wanted to come back and play well against them."

While Carroll's uncertain of Maualuga's status, he does have his eyes on someone he needs to step up - freshman Chris Galippo.

"I called him out in the meeting today," Carroll said. "I pointed it out to him that when guys get banged up, we've always looked at like an opportunity.

"If Chris gets the call, it'll be his moment."

Galippo's been cleared to participate in Saturday's game with the Ducks, and he said he expects to make his debut.

"I'm definitely going to be in the game," Galippo said. "There's going to be a weight on my shoulders to make some plays. How much they use me is up to the (coaches)…

"I'm going to count on playing a whole lot."

Galippo's been cleared to practice at full speed for two weeks, but he didn't receive many reps last week prior to the Trojans' game at Oregon State. This week with Maualuga out (for know), he's been getting work.

"I'm not used to taking this many reps, but my lungs and wind feels OK," he said. "It's more about just getting back and moving around like a football player should."

A Clean Start

After a nightmarish game at Oregon State, Joe McKnight sat in the locker room and took the blame for the loss.

Tuesday, he hit the practice field with plenty of bounce in his step and a new look, as his lumberjack-ish beard disappeared.

"Something just had to go," McKnight said.

Carroll said McKnight, like ex-Trojan running back Reggie Bush, has a tendency to try too hard and to press.

"He's just disappointed," Carroll said. "Sometimes the guys have a mentality that they've got to keep fighting to try to correct what's going wrong. They get exposed. Joe definitely has that mindset that he thinks he can pull it off and get away and get back out."

McKnight said he still feels like he's to blame for the loss at Oregon State, and he's attacking the practice field with even more fervor.

"I still fell like that, and I'll continue to feel like that until the season's over. I can't afford to come out and not play good," he said. "Coach recruited playmakers to come in and when you don't make plays, you feel like you let the team down."

Just handle it better, baby

Carroll had plenty to say about the firing of Oakland Raiders' head coach Lane Kiffin, a former USC coach, and Al Davis' Tuesday press conference.

"I really couldn't be more disappointed for the game of football. I thought today was really a dark moment. To go to that level in that situation hurts football, coaching the NFL and all sorts of stuff. It wasn't necessary at all," Carroll said. "The owner gets to do what he wants. He made his choice, and there's nothing wrong with that. It was just the manner of it with all the finger-pointing and name-calling.

"It seemed uninformed and out of touch."

Carroll gushed about Kiffin's coaching abilities and said he would gladly hire Kiffin back onto his staff, but there are no current openings.

"We probably can't touch him," Carroll said. "He'll be a head coach again very soon."

Extra Points

• Quarterback Mark Sanchez had his ankle taped during practice Tuesday. Sanchez said he's starting to feel some of the physical toll the grind of a season can take, but he's fighting through it.

David Buehler has a sprained MCL in his right knee, but he kicked field goals Tuesday. He sustained the injury practicing onside kicks on Monday.

Travon Patterson caught a touchdown after Marshall Jones deflected the ball in the end zone. Jones made up for the gaffe later in practice, ending the day with an interception.

Brian Cushing and Taylor Mays practiced without signs that they'll be bothered with injuries.

Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight both looked good in the team run period, with McKnight getting a score.

• Cornerback Shareece Wright watched practice with a towel over his head and a plastic neck brace on.

Wright said things look worse than they actually are with his injury.

• Freshman Jurrell Casey had the play of the day on the defensive line, pancaking two offensive linemen to help blow up a run in the backfield.

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