McKnight is getting a little defensive


Joe McKnight says his toes are healed and he’s ready to play football again -- on offense and defense.

USC’s junior running back missed spring practice while rehabilitating four dislocated toes but has returned to the field and is practicing at defensive back during informal summer workouts. He says he hopes to show his coaches he has the talent to play defense as well as run the ball when preseason camp starts Aug. 8.

“I did it all my high school career,” McKnight said. “I figure if I can do it here I could be more productive, get more in a rhythm and everything of the game.”


Coach Pete Carroll said McKnight had the tools to contribute on defense but probably wouldn’t get the opportunity.

“Joe’s always talked about that and wanting to do it because he wants to do everything,” Carroll said. “But I don’t think it’s going to happen. He’s good enough to do it. He’s capable of doing it, but we have other guys that are capable.”

Asked whether he thought being a two-way player would help him advance to the NFL, McKnight said, “It should help me; that’s what I’m trying.

“I’m trying to prove myself to the coaches on the next level, let them know I can play on both sides of the ball. Hope they can see it, hope Coach Carroll can see it, hope they give me a chance to do it.

“I don’t know if Coach Carroll will let me.”

Safety Taylor Mays and cornerback Shareece Wright have helped McKnight learn technical skills required to play in the secondary. Once he learns the technique, the reads will come naturally, McKnight said. But he has found himself fighting his instincts while in pass coverage.

“I just like playing man to man and I just sit on people’s routes all day,” he said. “I forget about all the coverages and lock on one person. That’s my problem; I like to just play man up on somebody.”

McKnight dislocated the toes during the Rose Bowl, a 38-24 win over Penn State.

He said he would be ready for full contact when camp starts.


Injury updates

Wright, who suffered a broken vertebra in his neck last season, says he feels strong again and that football movements are not causing him pain. The pain has been gone for a while, he said, but the strength only recently returned.

Center Kristofer O’Dowd missed spring practice while recovering from surgery that repaired a torn labrum. He has been cleared for full contact and has been working out with the team in the mornings.

Running back Allen Bradford, who missed contact drills in the spring because of a hip injury, has participated in informal summer sessions and said his surgically repaired hip feels good.

He has continued with his rehab, which includes weightlifting, ice baths, slide boards and stretches, he said.


Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.