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October 11, 2010TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama junior wide receiver Julio Jones broke a bone in his left hand early in the game against South Carolina and had surgery to insert a screw and plate on Sunday.
His status for Saturday's homecoming game against Ole Miss is uncertain.
"Nobody really knew it was broken," Coach Nick Saban said. "He did it in the first half, and played the entire game with it. When he was X-rayed on Saturday evening we, the doctor, decided the best thing to do was to plate it and screw it.
"The prognosis for it is as soon as he can tolerate using his hand, which will be the palm of his hand, he's cleared to play. That may be three or four days, it may be a week. I don't know. On Wednesday we'll probably access it and go from there."
It's believed that Jones sustained the fracture following his first catch while stiff-arming cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was called for a face-mask penalty and also twisted the receiver around while ripping his helmet off. Jones looked down at his hand after his second reception and was visibly grimacing following his thid catch and immediately came off the field, but finished with eight receptions for 118 yards and an 8-yard touchdown.
It was just his second red-zone touchdown reception over the past two seasons (19-yards vs. Chattanooga last season).
"He didn't look like he was hurt," junior running back Mark Ingram said.
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman tackle D.J. Fluker sustained a "pretty severe" groin injury and is expected to miss the Ole Miss game and maybe more. Alabama had been running more to the right, behind the 6-foot-6, 330-pound tackle, since the San Jose State game.
"He's made tremendous progress from spring to now," Ingram said. "He's been a valuable part of the offensive line. He's been doing a good job. His presence will be missed, definitely."
Junior Alfred McCullough, who replaced Fluker against South Carolina, will start in his place. Reporters weren't able to see who was working behind him during Monday's practice, which was closed to the media, and coaches are hoping to redshirt true freshman Arie Kouandijo. He's listed second on the depth chart as an "or" option with junior John Michael Boswell.
Junior linebacker Courtney Upshaw (thigh, ankle) is expected to be limited for a couple of days and junior linebacker Chris Jordan is still recovering from a hamstring injury. Junior defensive end Marcell Dareus, who had four tackles for a loss and a sack against the Gamecocks, said his sprained ankle is "a little sore but I'm ok."
Jones' injury is the latest on a long list of career ailments which included his wrist, shoulder and sports hernia as a freshman, and taking a helmet directly to the knee for a severe bruise last season. He sustained a bruised knee against Florida two weeks ago, but played through it at South Carolina.
"He always pushes through everything," Ingram said. "Even if he is hurt he doesn't tell anyone until after the game."
Although teammates say he was in a lot of pain, McElroy didn't find out anything was wrong with Jones until the second half when he had been replaced on some routes and special teams and Alabama was trying not run in his direction.
"I saw him the training room this morning," McElroy said. "He was still a little bit out of it from the surgery. He's a warrior, he'll be back and he'll put forth his best effort to get back on the field as soon as possible.
"It's tough. We've really been throwing the ball well, together, the past few plays. He's made some big plays for us."
Jones has twice as many receptions as anyone else on the Crimson Tide this season with 32 for 440 yards, averaging 73.3 yards per game, and three touchdowns. He's also the unit's best downfield blocker and leads the team in yards after the catch.
Yards after the catch
Overall, just over half of Alabama's 1,486 receiving yards (52.6 percent) have been after the catch, nearly 7 additional yards per reception (6.98).
It should also be noted that Jones dropped one pass after sustaining the injury, while junior Darius Hanks had his first of the season:
Seven players other than Jones had receptions against South Carolina, including senior tight end Preston Dial with a career-high five. Led by Hanks' 16 catches for 285 yards the rest of the team combined has more than 1,000 receiving yards this season.
"They did a great job in the game," Saban said. "We had some guys open and couldn't get them the ball because of pressure, we missed a few.
"We have confidence in our other guys."