September 29, 2009
Honestly, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to type this today when I went to bed last night, but I'm glad I can: USC running back Stafon Johnson is finally out of surgery this morning after undergoing a seven-hour procedure to repair "crushing injuries" to his throat after a bench press bar slipped and fell on his neck Monday afternoon. California Hospital describes Johnson's condition as "critical but stable," suggesting some of the scarier visions lurking in fans' heads last night weren't far from the truth, but also said Johnson's prognosis following the surgery is good. He almost certainly won't play again this season, but is expected to make a complete recovery.
The details of the scene are fairly grisly -- Johnson reportedly spit up blood through his mouth and nose, according to the L.A. Times, which also quoted an anonymous "source close to the family" who said surgeons were working to realign the senior's larynx and were "hopeful" he would regain his voice. (The time table for that particular recovery wasn't specified.) The hospital release only described the injuries as "severe laryngeal injuries," but the length of the surgery, performed by a hyper-specialized otolaryngologist, is a clue to the messiness and intricacy of the reconstruction job.
Johnson had 157 yards through four games this year as the Trojans' de facto short-yardage back, well below his per-game average the last two seasons, but made his mark on the season by punching in both of USC's touchdowns -- including the game-winner at the end of an epic 85-yard drive as the clock ticked down -- in SC's comeback win at Ohio State. Johnson didn't redshirt as one of several extremely hyped freshmen in the Trojan backfield in 2006, and will have to earn a medical redshirt or convince the NFL he can play again in the spring -- if, in fact, he can play again. This isn't certain, and no one is offering much speculation as of this morning, since his football future has been far, far down the list of concerns over the last 18 hours.