August 14, 2008

Practice Insider: Keeping things fresh

For the hundreds of other people inside the IMAX theater at Universal City Walk Wednesday night, things might have been a little uncomfortable.

A100-plus football players mired in the middle of fall camp were getting one of their first breaks from football in over a week.

It got a little crazy.

"We told them it was the wrong time to come because everyone was talking," linebacker Rey Maualuga said. "We got shushed a lot. We were just having some fun.

"Everyone's in there throwing candy around and stuff. It was liken we were all teenagers."

Head coach Pete Carroll is very aware that his players are fully immersed in football, and he and his staff are challenged to find ways to make things interesting.

"Coach Carroll is a very serious man, but he likes to mix in fun with serious times and football," Maualuga said. "It's good times."

Sometimes, like Wednesday night, it comes in the form of a reward.

"Our guys are doing everything we're asking of them. They're really right on the mark. They're doing well," Carroll said. "They're studying hard. They're sleeping well. Everything. When we get our chances, we try and do things to keep it fresh."

Still, the Trojan minds are almost 100 percent focused on football. Maualuga said he spends only about five minutes awake each day away from some aspect of the game - time spent thinking about his family.

"It's football this and football that," he said.

But these players have a job to do, and they understand that.

"Coaches are emphasizing it. Don't let the grind get to you," Maualuga said. "This is the point where were the coaches get to see who is running through the aches and pains. They get to see who still has that full-speed effort even though it's been over a week.

"To us, it's still the same. It's still football, and we're in football mode."

Joe versus the door

Bad luck continues to follow Joe McKnight around during fall camp.

Earlier this week, McKnight missed time due a skin irritation caused by new equipment.

Then Wednesday night, McKnight had a large wooden door shut on his middle and ring fingers on his right hand.

"It was painful," McKnight said. "It's all right. They took the nails off and cleaned it up. I'll be back in a couple days."

McKnight did practice some Wednesday, fielding punts and catching passes before the coaching staff decided it'd be best for him to sit out.

"He wanted to go, but it was pretty nasty I guess," Carroll said.

McKnight said he's more than rested, and he's ready to start making more plays.

"They didn't want me to aggravate it any more, and they know what they're doing," McKnight said. "I'm not going to sit out no more. I know that."

Sanchez update

More good news concerning Mark Sanchez on Thursday, as the junior quarterback did some light drop-backs and throwing.

Wearing a new brace, Sanchez said he also go a brand new batch exercises to do in rehab.

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said he thought Sanchez would only need a week of practice before being ready to go in a game.

Extra Points

Marc Tyler continues to look like one of the big winners through eight days of fall camp. On consecutive carries, Tyler gained 23 and 28 yards against the second-team defense.

• Freshman wide receiver Brice Butler returned to practice, catching two balls in 11-on-11's, including one for a touchdown.

• Freshman defensive back Brian Baucham did not practice, walking with his left foot in a boot. Baucham will undergo a MRI tomorrow to test for a possible stress fracture.

• Freshman defensive end Malik Jackson suffered a strained back during practice and didn't return.

Aaron Corp fumbled two consecutive snaps.

Brian Cushing sacked Mitch Mustain in the offense's end zone for a safety.

• Linebacker Michael Morgan suffered a dislocated left shoulder when he and Uona Kavienga tried to keep Ronald Johnson from scoring. Kavienga's helmet appeared to hit Morgan squarely in the shoulder.

Blake Ayles did not practice for the second straight day, as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms.

Damian Williams had the block of the day, screening off three defenders while Patrick Turner picked up big yardage on a screen play.

David Buehler and Greg Woidneck got the day off from kicking.

Vidal Hazelton had to take a knee in the corner of Howard Jones field, cleaning out his stomach before returning to the field. The culprit - a pre-practice bacon cheeseburger.

• The team added a pass-protection/ pass-rushing drill to its agenda, and Carroll called the period a success.

• It rained briefly during practice, the first time it's happened during fall camp.

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