USC senior safety Kevin Ellison strolled out of Heritage Hall Monday with a few of his teammates with a little extra bounce in his step.
He walked with the confidence of a player fresh off acing a test or having a monster practice. Ellison did neither Monday.
He spent his morning on his back, having torn cartilage in his right knee repaired.
Still, the 40-minute surgery didn't dampen Ellison's mood, as he met with reporters after the Trojans' Monday practice.
"I might be back for Cal this week," Ellison said.
Apparently, he wasn't joking.
Already walking without reporters, Ellison put pressure on his right knee, squatting up and down with ease.
"I have good bend in it, but there's still a little swelling in it," he said. "I can't get it all the way bent. I'm walking on it without crutches though. It feels really good."
USC head coach Pete Carroll said the surgery went very well, and Ellison could be back in three weeks - the same time Sedrick Ellis missed to a similar surgery in 2006.
Ellison isn't using Ellis' recovery as a guideline.
"Sed's a pretty big guy," Ellison said. "I'm like a 100 pounds less. That's a lot less weight to put on it."
Ellison joked with reporter about his condition and his ambition, saying he hoped to be a first round pick in the Arena Football League so he could be a first round pick somewhere.
He also made light of a pair of surgeries he underwent early in his career to his left knee.
"I was actually trying to get hurt so I could have it balanced out," Ellison said. "I wanted to get my right leg messed up so I could even out my body."
Ellison injured the knee after intercepting a pass late during last Thursday's practice.
"I made a cut on my right leg, and I had a small tear in my meniscus. Sometimes, things happen, and this just happened," he said. "I knew something was wrong when I did it. I felt that sharp pain in my knee.
"That's why I sat on the ground because I knew something was wrong with my body. I knew it wasn't a serious, serious thing."
Hours after his surgery, Ellison began rehabbing the knee, receiving ice treatment and help stretching the knee.
"It's a challenge, really," Ellison said. "I'm going to get after it. The recovery is on you basically and how good you feel.
"I'm actually excited about the whole process."
With Ellison out, Will Harris started for the Trojans in their 56-0 win over Washington Saturday.
"We expect our guys when they get their chances to jump in their like starters," Carroll said. "Will did exactly that."
Harris' six tackles tied for the team lead.
While Ellison's certainly eager, he realizes he does have to proceed with some caution, allowing time for the knee to heal.
"I'm going to be smart about what I do, but if you're ready to go, there's no reason to sit out. I don't play things extra safe," Ellison said. "Hopefully, I'm going to play football for a long time, but when I'm ready to step out on the field, I won't step out halfway. If I'm out there, that means I'm ready to play.
"I'll make sure I'm right."
The Trojans' first practice in November took place under dark skies with the lights on. Without the sun, many players chose to wear long-sleeved undershirts to battle the brisk temperatures.
"That California cold, it's good," USC quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "I love night games. It's just like high school, and those were the best. I'm cool with it."
Under Carroll, the Trojans own a perfect win-loss record in November, and Sanchez said the team's making it a point to continue that.
"Coach Carroll's coaching us like it's playoff time," Sanchez said. "These next four games should be a good stretch of tough competition for us. We're excited about that.
"We need to learn to finish strong and keep up the tradition of never losing after November."
• At the end of practice, plenty of young Trojans stayed for an extra competition period. Carroll said he plans on keeping the extra sessions going each Monday for the rest of the season.
"Down the stretch, we want to give our young guys extra turns, where we can really coach them and make sure that they continue to make progress," Carroll said. "Sometimes when you get all caught up in the games coming up, you can lose that focus on the young guys.
"They need to hear from us. They need to have us critique them and help make them better."
• Sanchez didn't react much to the Trojans' slip to No. 7 in the latest BCS rankings, released Sunday.
"There's not too much you can do about it," he said. "We just have to keep winning, and these next four games can be good for us. Immediately, our focus is on Cal. We'll deal with the BCS sometime in December. Right now, it looks like we just got to keep playing and keep winning.
"That's the only thing that can help us."
• Blake Ayles (bruised knee) and Michael Morgan (sprained MCL) did not practice Monday after being nicked up in the Trojans' win against Washington.
• News on Phil Fullmer's impending departure from Tennessee made its way onto the field, and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said he'd have to listen if the Volunteers come calling.
"Just like all jobs, I'll assess it," Sarkisian said. "If something were to come out, I'd assess it. It's obviously one of the premiere jobs in country. You'd have to look at it."
• Carroll heard Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama would add a playoff to college football if he could change one thing in sports.
"I knew I was voting for the right guy," he said.
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