Sept. 13, 2006
Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer had a pretty good afternoon Wednesday at Haslam Field.
The Vols coach was greeted on the practice grounds by both players -- Inquoris Johnson and Justin Harrell -- injured in last weekend's win over Air Force. And as uplifting as it was to see Johnson released from the hospital, even more amazing was the picture of Harrell in full practice uniform.
Preparing for Saturday's visit from Florida.
"We had one of the most unique things happen Tuesday in that Justin Harrell came to us and said, `Coach, I feel like I can play,'" Fulmer said of his senior defensive tackle. "We conferred with the doctors and there is no chance for further injury to his arm if he's padded up well. He practiced today and did just about everything there was to do.
"I don't know whether he'll get five snaps or 50 snaps, but he's going to be able to play in this football game. And this is a one-game deal. He has to have the surgery because if it goes longer than a couple of weeks, the muscle starts to atrophy," or shrivel and shrink from disuse.
Head athletic trainer Jason McVeigh said late Wednesday that Harrell, who ruptured his biceps tendon in the third quarter against Air Force, is scheduled for surgery early next week.
McVeigh also reported that Johnson was released from UT Medical Center on Wednesday and is doing well.
The junior defensive back sustained a severe injury to his right upper extremity in Saturday's game. Johnson underwent surgery to repair blood vessels and McVeigh said the UT Sports Medicine Staff continues to monitor his progress.
"Inky came out to practice and that was a very emotional moment for all of us," Fulmer said. "He got them excited about the game. His spirits are really good. I told him we were all praying for him and he said, `Coach, I'm blessed.' He just had a lot of energy about himself.
"He's tired, he's been through a lot, but he's got a tremendous attitude. He's a tremendous young man. Whatever he does in life, he will be very successful."
And Fulmer said he's never seen anything in his coaching career like Harrell's return to practice.
"What a great statement to want to be out there with his teammates," Fulmer said. "The love and passion he has for his team is just unbelievable."
Add an early-practice appearance from the Pride of the Southland Marching Band -- a little extra hoopla surrounding this weekend's SEC opener -- and Tennessee's head coach had a pretty good afternoon.
"It's Florida week. Whatever it takes."