Walls, King reinstated to Vols as of today
Time to recheck the box score from July 9. Because unless you recall the hits, runs and errors of that early-morning incident, you can't fully appreciate the news generated by Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley at Tuesday's press conference.
It was a busy, brutal night at Bar Knoxville. And a number of Vols were at least guilty of playing late.
The barroom brawl left a local police officer in the hospital and a lot of Vols in trouble.
n Starting safety Darren Myles was charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and evading arrest.
n Freshman wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers was charged with resisting arrest and evading arrest.
n Starting defensive tackle Montori Hughes wasn't charged but was concerned enough to hire a lawyer, who promptly pointed out that his client was "attacked without provocation" (the attacker was not a teammate).
n Three other players were identified as being at the scene but weren't charged with anything.
n Linebacker Greg King and defensive tackle Marlon Walls were "indefinitely suspended" by Dooley even though they weren't mentioned in the police report.
Dooley didn't waste time responding. Aside from suspending King and Walls, he kicked Myles off the team following the player's second off-the-field offense in several months.
Almost a month later, Dooley told Tuesday's media gathering that King and Walls would rejoin the team for training camp, and no other players would be suspended unless the coach got new information. From a coach who was so quick to boot a prominent player from the team, you might have expected something more stringent, especially since Dooley has talked frequently and passionately about the importance of players having high character and representing the program and university in a positive light.
While I applaud Dooley's decision to dismiss Myles swiftly, I can't help but wonder about his decision to welcome back the entire Bar Knoxville gang without a half's worth of suspension for a single player.
Maybe that's because I'm so familiar with the recent history of UT's football program, which has been marked by too many off-the-field incidents and too little punishment.
Maybe it's because so many players were involved, and the policeman's injuries were so severe.
Yet only one player misses a game?
That's not to suggest Dooley should throw players under the paddy wagon just to underscore his commitment to discipline.
But for a new coach intent on laying the foundation for his program on solid character, it's important that he's right about this.
He sounds convincing.
"It's still a little tricky because there hasn't been full closure by the legal process," he said.
"So I can't talk much on it, but I can tell you this: I'm extremely comfortable with what the facts are and with what happened and their role in it. It's been consistent since day one and there's been no new information that would lead you to believe otherwise."
I would be more skeptical if this was just another football coach talking. But Dooley is a former lawyer who knows the value of thorough research.
He acknowledges there could be "new information that I had no idea was out there." However, he's so sure of that research, he's lifting the suspensions of King and Walls a month before the first game and not taking playing time from anybody.
If the legal process proves him right, he shouldn't be second-guessed.
John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org