Injuries continue to mount in physical USC camp

LOS ANGELES — The yellow jersey Cody Kessler wears during USC practices provides him some security — he can’t be touched.

The defacto sacks against the Trojans quarterback are nothing more than slaps on the back.

He knows that’ll be different if he were playing in a real game, but for now, he’s very grateful for the yellow jersey.

“I’m kind of glad we’re not getting hit out here, because if we got hit every time that we got tapped by our defensive line, I don’t think we’d last very long,” Kessler said.

The rest of his teammates have a different story. Everyone is fair game in what is likely the most physical training camp USC has seen in the Lane Kiffin era.

By allowing his team to be so physical, he’s walking a tightrope.

Kiffin knows his team has to be physical. The lack of physicality during practice last season became a detriment during the Trojans’ 7-6 campaign of 2012.

However, being physical can cause injuries, which affects one of USC’s weakest attributes — depth.

Twenty players were unavailable for team drills on Thursday. Later, two more players left with injuries.

Safety Dion Bailey watched on crutches with a hip injury and is day-to-day after being injured in Wednesday’s practice.

USC fans held their collective breaths when news spread Marqise Lee had to be escorted from practice with a shoulder injury last week.

He’s since returned, but there was a time earlier this week when Kiffin was asked by a reporter what he thought of his running backs.

“All two of them?” the head coach quipped in response.

The Trojans were down to two healthy scholarship running backs and two healthy scholarship wide receivers.

If USC had a game tomorrow, it would be in bad shape with injuries.

“We’d be really concerned,” Kiffin said. “Our health, right now, would not put us in position to win many games if we had to play tomorrow. We would not have many rotations at many spots.

“If we were that close to a game, we would not practice like this.”

But practicing “like this,” as physical as it’s been, is something they have to do.

For football players, there’s being “in shape” and there’s being “in football shape.”

“You got to take reps,” said running back Silas Redd, who’s missed time this camp, as well, with injury. “You got to get your body right. You can’t get in shape like you want to unless you play ball.

“It’s one of those sports where you need to play football to stay in shape.”

So let the hitting and tackling continue, just not with the quarterbacks.