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USC's Stafon Johnson in "critical but stable" condition

September 28, 2009 |  7:28 pm

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USC running back Stafon Johnson is still in surgery at California Hospital Medical Center near downtown. His condition was "critical but stable" as of about 7:20 tonight, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Friends and family of Johnson have gathered at the hospital, waiting for him to return from surgery which began about five hours ago.

Johnson was injured this morning while lifting weights at the school.

The senior from Dorsey High was just starting a set of bench press lifts when he apparently lost control of the bar and it landed on his neck. He was reportedly spitting up blood and was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where surgery began sometime around 2 p.m., according to family friend John Eatman, a former high school teammate.

Eatman was among about a dozen friends and family members gathered in hospital waiting room this evening. "Right now we don't know anything," Eatman said. "We're just hoping he's all right."

Johnson's mother, Kim Mallory, was at the hospital but declined comment through a family spokesperson.

In a news release posted on the USC football web site, Chris Carlisle, USC's strength and conditioning coach, said such an accident was rare. "I've seen players have the bar slip and fall onto their chest, but never in my 25 years of coaching have I heard of someone dropping a bar on their throat," the coach said.

Carlisle, who was within feet of Johnson when the accident occurred, said an assistant strength and conditioning coach was acting as a "spotter" for the player. No other details were available, and Carlisle was not made available to the media after today's practice.

Coach Pete Carroll called the incident "an unfortunate accident, adding that "our thoughts and prayers are with Stafon.

Johnson, who has been something of a goal-line specialist this season, leads USC with five touchdowns. He also is the team's second-leading rusher with 157 yards in 32 carries, a 4.9 yards-per-carry average.

-- Mike Hiserman and Ben Bolch

Photo: USC tailback Stafon Johnson looks for running room against Washington. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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