First-team linebacking crew out hurt

LOS ANGELES -- Dion Bailey's left arm was in a sling. Lamar Dawson's right foot was in a boot. And Hayes Pullard showed up two hours into practice wearing sneakers.

The Trojans' entire first-team linebacking crew was out of commission on Monday, with exact injuries unknown because of Lane Kiffin's new policy that prevents players from revealing anything about their injuries.

And into their places stepped Tony Burnett, Scott Starr and Anthony Sarao -- none of whom have ever played a single snap of a collegiate game at linebacker.

The injuries to Bailey and Pullard seem fairly minor. Bailey characterized his as a "few bumps and bruises" and Pullard actually said he wasn't hurt at all. But Dawson's troubles could be more serious, as evidenced by the contingency plan USC has put into place the last few days.

Pullard, while healthy, has been practicing at middle linebacker so he can play there if Dawson stays out. And Sarao has been running with the first team on the weak side, which is Pullard's regular spot.

Asked why he didn't participate in practice, Pullard said he was not injured and was simply doing extra conditioning work to prepare for middle linebacker.

But Kiffin characterized it differently when asked the same question, saying Pullard was out with an unspecified injury. When told Pullard said he was not hurt, Kiffin laughed.

"He was told not to discuss it; he follows well," Kiffin said.

It may be funny now, but there won't be many laughs if Dawson's still hurt in a week or two and the Trojans have to decide which freshman linebacker to start in their season opener.