KNOXVILLE — Nashville native Eric Gordon doesn’t want to miss his Tennessee team’s Saturday night football game at Vanderbilt.
The redshirt freshman cornerback’s status seems at least in question, though, following another knock to the head in Tuesday’s practice.
Gordon, who has two interceptions in the past two weeks but two concussions in the past three weeks, said he doesn’t remember many details about his first concussion of the season.
“I think I was trying to tackle the guy, and he was already going to the ground. My teammate was falling almost, or something like that,” Gordon said. “But I mean, I took another big hit this week [against Ole Miss], and that kind of let me out the rest of the game.”
Gordon said he “passed all my [concussion] tests” before Tuesday’s practice but took another hit. He said he thinks he’ll play Saturday and that he’s “not really thinking about an injury or anything like that.”
“I’m just taking it day by day,” he said. “Everything’s fine. You know, just see how it plays out by this weekend. ... It just feels weird, you know, having something like this that you never had before. But we’re just dealing with it day by day.”
“Like I said, I’ll be ready by Saturday.”
Coach Derek Dooley was hesitant when asked whether Gordon’s multiple concussions in a short period of time would affect his status for Saturday.
“That’s something you’ve got to talk to our trainer about,” Dooley said. “Do we allow our trainer to talk?”
Dooley was then informed that UT’s trainers don’t speak with the media.
“Yeah, you’re going to have a hard time getting an answer,” Dooley said. “Maybe I’ll talk to the trainer.”
The bottom line, according to Dooley, is that Gordon won’t play unless he’s completely cleared.
“Especially when it comes to concussions ... we always error on player safety,” he said. “And I’ll never compromise that.”
Dooley said sophomore wide receiver Zach Rogers, another Vol from Nashville with a concussion, “should be OK” for Saturday. Rogers also left the Ole Miss game early after taking a hard hit to the helmet.
The coach said sophomore safety Janzen Jackson’s ankle also should be “OK” for Saturday. Jackson injured it while trying to recover a punt he muffed in the second half against Ole Miss, and he didn’t return.
Dooley said freshman guard Zach Fulton’s injured ankle was “doing good.”
“Let’s see how tomorrow goes, and there’s a good chance he can get settled back in at right guard,” Dooley said.
If Fulton returns, Dooley said he’d probably put him back in the starting lineup at right guard and move versatile senior Jarrod Shaw back to left guard, where he could compete with redshirt freshman JerQuari Schofield for the starting spot.
Dooley hasn’t been fond of many of his team’s Tuesday practices this season, and the most recent one was no exception.
The Vols install their game plan on Tuesdays, and Dooley said “it’s never as crisp as you’d like, but the spirits were good.”
“Tuesday’s are always, you know, you’re kicking off the week, it’s the hard practice, you’ve got all the new plays in, so the execution’s never as good as you want it, so coaches are screaming. It’s like that every Tuesday,” Dooley said. “But as long as the spirits are up, and they’re hitting and they’re popping and competing in those team periods when we go against the defense, then you can live with it. And then you just need to polish up that execution on Wednesday.”
Asked if it was frustrating to have a poor Tuesday practice so late in the season, Dooley said, “No.”
“It happens every week, because every week’s a new week,” he said. “Every week’s a new week and, you know, it’s a lot of things at work, OK? ... I mean, that’s why we practice. If we could just hand them a sheet, say, ‘Here are the plays, and show up at the game,’ we wouldn’t have to practice. So they are not going to get it right the first time.
“But then you always have, ‘What’s the psyche?’ You want them to keep a high standard of what they’re doing and commit to that standard every day, and you can’t compromise the standard, and so you’re always making sure that they don’t compromise what our standard of work is. So that’s the dynamic and the morale, you know.
“Sometimes, ‘Are they moping?’ Sometimes, ‘Are they feeling too good?’ I mean, there’s a lot of factors and every Tuesday, it’s a new week, it’s a new season and you have to recommit. You’ve got to recommit as coaches, and you’ve got to recommit as a player.”