January 1, 2009

Ellison sits the big one out

At USC's media day for the Rose Bowl, each of the team's captains sat in booths and answered questions ranging from the insightful to the ridiculous.

After answering questions about his max bench press, TMZ and New Year's resolution, Trojan quarterback Mark Sanchez's demeanor changed when Kevin Ellison's name came up.

Ellison, the backbone of one of the country's best defenses, won't be on the field for one final game when USC takes on Penn State on New Year's Day.

"It's tough. He's done everything right for four years now, and he's been through some tough injuries," Sanchez said. "To have him out, it crushes you emotionally."

Ellison, though, isn't crushed. He's cool with it - now.

"I'm OK. It is what it is now. I just have to deal with it," he said. "n I mean, it sucks. I didn't want to get hurt obviously, especially at the end of my senior season. If I felt good enough to play, I'd definitely be playing.

"I'm at peace with it now."

Knee surgery in early November brought his season to an abrupt end. He played some in USC's win over UCLA, but the time back on the field only made things worse.

"I didn't think it was going to be as bad as it was," he said. "It was sore and really bothered me up to the beginning of this week. I didn't expect that at all."

Complicating matters, Ellison received clearance to play on New Year's Day by the USC medical staff.

"It just wasn't getting better," Ellison said. "It didn't feel like I wanted it to."

Walking was a problem. The rehab wasn't taking as well as it had to.

And, Ellison was faced with a difficult decision.

Either he could play on a bum knee and risk being healthy for NFL events like USC's pro day and the NFL Scouting Combine, or he could sit this one out.

He made his choice.

"It was there a little bit. This was my third knee surgery," he said. "I can't go on to my fourth coming out of the season. If I played, I felt like I could suffer a major setback."

Will Harris will start at safety for the Trojans in the Rose Bowl, and Ellison will watch.

"We've been dealing with it for over a month. It's not as big of an issue as it could've been had we just found out," USC head coach Pete Carroll said. "We'd love to have Kevin. He's a great member of this team and a leader.

"How do you replace that? You don't."

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