Josh McNeil’s Tennessee football career continues to hang in doubt after the senior underwent arthroscopic surgery Wednesday morning on his left knee.
“He had surgery at 7:30 this morning,’’ head coach Lane Kiffin said after Wednesday’s practice. “They scoped it. At best, (McNeil will be out) probably three or four weeks.
“But that’s just the initial scope. They may have to go in and do a bunch more stuff.’’
McNeil had started 35 consecutive games. Knee problems are nothing new for the Mississippi native but he reinjured his left knee a little over a week ago and hasn’t been the same since.
Tight end Jeff Cottam is one of McNeil’s closest friends on the team.
“It’s a tough time for him,’’ Cottam said. “He didn’t want to have surgery and sit out the season, or at least the beginning of it, so I know it’s hard on him.
“But it’s something he’s got to do. He’s got to get his knee fixed.’’
Cottam, no stranger to injuries himself, anticipates that McNeil will contribute, whether it’s on the field or not.
“He knows the offense real well,’’ Cottam said, “so he’s going to help coach everybody up. He’s a fifth-year senior. He knows a lot of football.’’
Senior linebacker Nick Reveiz considers McNeil a kindred spirit.
“My heart is with Josh,’’ Reveiz said. “I’m the kind of player that I love the game of football. I don’t play it for all the extras. I play it because I love to play and I know Josh is the same way.
“But that’s one of those things that as a football player you’ve got to look at it like we’ve got to get the next guy ready to play.’’
The next guy is senior Cody Sullins.
McNeil redshirted in 2005, then became a starter in the fourth game of 2006. He’s started every game since.
Because 2009 is McNeil’s fifth year, season-ending surgery could be the end of his UT career. He would need to secure hardship approval of a sixth year by the NCAA to return in 2010.
Mike Strange covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6276.