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Talking Points: Why the Injury Risk is Worth It

First, the usual roundup of news on the Vols.  Second, a note on injuries after the jump.

  • Still no hints on the starting quarterback.  Kiffin is actually pleased that neither has separated, because it only happens when one is clearly worse.  Sure, you can spin it either way, but there is a certain logic to that
  •  “I feel more a part of the family now.”  Markeith Ambles is drawing closer to the coaches with every contact, so no worries about the effects of Rozier's departure here.  Oh, and he is ' following the Vols’ recruiting online'.  So Markeith, welcome to Rocky Top, and welcome to Rocky Top Talk!  We love you, man.  In that socially acceptable, man-love-but-not-creepy-stalkery sort of way.
  • This sounds like my last flight itinerary.  A Philadelphia preview of the Vols comes to UT via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  It's typical stuff, but the writer assumes a return to glory for the Vols in a surprisingly rational way.
  • Play nice, fellas.  Handshakes are now 'encouraged' prior to games, which only means they'll be required in future years.  I understand handshakes after games, but beforehand is when the players are supposed to be amping themselves up.
  • Fulmer: still ready to coach.  The Papa has been taking much of his offseason to learn from other coaches.  Money line:  "I'm either going to be ready to go coach again or write one hell of a book."
  • The receivers stunk, the qbs stunk, the offense stunk, and they still had a 58% completion percentage.  The receivers dropped a lot of passes during the scrimmage, which dampens the QB stats.  That's better than all but three games last year (UAB - 61%, Florida - 64%, and UNI - 64%).  And that's a bad day.
  • Stewart Mandel is fascinated with the Vols.  He previews all 21 new head coaches.  Guess who gets the headline and premier treatment, noting that "they should get back to a decent bowl."

As we've all been painfully aware (pun intended), the injuries have been mounting up over the last week or so of fall practice.  There have been reports of about half a dozen concussions and numerous leg injuries.  On the 'good news' front, several of the injured made their way back to practice on Monday after having the Sunday day of rest.  The injuries are the cost of the physical practices that the Vols are going through during Kamp Kiffin; you just don't have guys that big hitting each other at full speed for hours on end without some collateral damage.  Besides the 'toughen them up' motif, I can see two other positives that can be taken from the injury reports so far.

First, a lot of players have returned quickly - some even the same day - from injuries (and even when they were carted off the field.  From that, I see a staff that is being very cautious about injuries.  They're asking a lot from the players, but they're not taking things lightly.  If a guy goes down, he gets treatment.  Period.

Second, the physical practices are as close to a game as they can get under NCAA rules.  That means that, instead of just 22 starters playing the lion's share of minutes in 12 regular-season games, you have the full team effectively 'playing football' all week long during preseason (and very likely during the regular season for a couple days a week) in addition to the 12 games.  That is a lot of live football.  These players get only four years of eligibility and, regardless of school, most will not go to the NFL.  Kiffin is giving them as much 'playing time' as he possibly can, and I really don't think that can be overstated.

Yes, the physicality brings risk.  But it also brings rewards.  The players love the collisions and love the intensity.  They're having fun out there - something they didn't have all season long last year (for various reasons).  I seriously doubt you'll find a single player who wishes they'd tone things down a bit, and while you don't necessarily want the troops making the important decisions, it's good to remember that this window of opportunity is very brief for them, and letting them enjoy their opportunity should be a high priority.