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Sanchez looks sharp in practice

Times Staff Writer

Mark Sanchez played it safe after breaking his right thumb three weeks ago.

USC’s backup quarterback started his car with the key in his left hand. He opened doors with his left hand and avoided slapping hands with teammates for fear of further injury.

On Wednesday, a day after testing his pain threshold by tossing a Nerf football after practice, Sanchez worked out for the first time since suffering the injury during a scrimmage at the Coliseum.

“Nerf ball to full recovery in one day -- we should have done it two weeks ago,” Coach Pete Carroll said.

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Sanchez did not handle snaps or participate in contact drills, but he looked sharp during seven-on-seven drills and proclaimed that he would be available when USC plays Nebraska on Sept. 15 at Lincoln, Neb.

“I felt accurate,” Sanchez said. “I thought that would be my biggest concern, you know, coming back off that break and not being able to put the ball on target. But I felt good.”

Sanchez said not participating in the Trojans’ season-opening victory over Idaho was difficult. However, the time away from drills and the huddle might have proved beneficial.

“He got a chance to watch a scrimmage. He got a chance to watch a game and he got a chance to sit in meetings and look at it a little different way,” offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said. “Only time will tell, but I think it’s been effective.”

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Sanchez is one of several players working their way back from injuries this week.

Freshman tailback Marc Tyler went through contact drills for the first time since training camp began. Tyler, coming back from a broken leg suffered in high school, impressed at times but also fumbled.

Sixth-year senior Hershel Dennis (knee) also increased his participation but did not absorb hits.

“Not yet,” he said, adding, “The impact isn’t really a problem, it’s the pounding into the ground when I’m making hard cuts. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”

Freshman center Kristofer O’Dowd made some mistakes against Idaho but apparently played well enough to hold off a challenge for the job.

O’Dowd’s performance, coupled with junior guard Jeff Byers’ solid game, convinced Carroll to stay with the status quo rather than have Byers move to center.

“I thought we’d come back and compete for it again, but I don’t think it’s necessary,” Carroll said. “I really liked the way it worked out, so it’s just a matter of leaving guys in the same spots and working together now and trying to get some continuity in a hurry.”

Receiver Vidal Hazelton was slow to get up off the ground and appeared momentarily stunned after colliding with safety Taylor Mays. . . . Linebacker Brian Cushing (ankle) said his condition was improving and that he would practice next week in preparation for Nebraska. . . . Receiver Patrick Turner (neck) remains inactive, but Carroll said he probably would return next week. . . . Offensive lineman Nick Howell said he was scheduled to have hernia surgery Friday. . . . Fullback Adam Goodman missed practice because he has been suffering from vertigo. He said he probably would return today. . . . Carroll will attend Saturday’s Angel City Classic at the Coliseum. The event will include a football game between North Carolina A&T; and Prairie View A&M; at 2:30 p.m., along with a battle of the bands and other activities. “Hopefully, we can support it and help some kids get to college that might not have gone otherwise,” Carroll said.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

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UP NEXT

at No. 16 Nebraska (1-0)

Sept. 15, 5 p.m., Channel 7


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