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THE RIVALRY: Saturday at the Coliseum, 12:30 p.m. : Bruin Back Won’t Rule Himself Out : College football: Abdul-Jabbar says he might recover quickly from sprained ankle.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite a severely sprained right ankle, UCLA tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar is guardedly optimistic about his chances of playing in Saturday’s game against USC.

“I’m going to do what I do best and that’s heal myself,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I don’t know what the doctors and trainers think, but I know my body. I know I can heal myself. It’s not that bad.”

Abdul-Jabbar, who has rushed for a school single-season record of 1,419 yards, was injured on the Bruins’ first play from scrimmage in last Saturday’s game against Washington. He did not return.

Coach Terry Donahue said he “did not expect” Abdul-Jabbar to play this Saturday.

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But the junior tailback limped onto the practice field on crutches late Monday afternoon and gave his teammates a pep talk, assuring them he would do everything he could to be able to be ready by Saturday.

“If any one man can get ready, it’s him,” Donahue said. “He does not look like he will play, but who knows? He has done some great things with his body.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been at this juncture before on a Monday, although because of a different injury.

Suffering from a bad bruise in the lower back after the BYU game, Abdul-Jabbar needed a wheelchair for the trip home. But he was in the lineup the next Saturday against Oregon, carrying 32 times for 127 yards.

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Asked how he felt on the Monday before the Oregon game compared to this Monday, Abdul-Jabbar replied, “I wasn’t nearly as optimistic [then] as I am now.”

This latest injury occurred after Abdul-Jabbar had been stopped for no gain. His right foot stuck under a pile of bodies and his back bent, the Bruin running back knew he was in a vulnerable position.

“I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got to get out of here,’ ” Abdul-Jabbar said.

Before he could, one of the Husky tacklers applied the pressure that damaged the ankle.

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“He used my face to get up,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

The UCLA tailback is a great believer in the power of the mind.

He plans on supplementing the anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed for him with anti-inflammatory herbs and willpower.

“With a clear head,” he said, “you can send enzymes down there. I have to want to be back. You’ve got to believe your body can do it.”

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