Tennessee has had a few months to recover.
The linebackers that went under the knife last season are progressing. The cornerback who had surgery has been out running around. The banged-up defensive linemen have received some extra attention from the training staff.
But even with some time off and more than a few changes around the Vols defense over the last couple months, one thing remained the same during the first practice of spring on Thursday. With at least seven regulars still limited physically, UT is getting plenty of use out of its red, no-contact jerseys on that side of the ball.
"(I'm) feeling all right, it's just a thing I'm going to have to go through, you know, same old stuff," defensive end Chris Walker said. "Our trainers are going to do a great job and get me back. I should be out here soon. Definitely I'm going to be out here. I don't want to miss the spring, because that's the most important time for me.
"It'll be fine. It's a little frustrating, but it's come to be a thing for me. College football isn't for everybody, and it kind of beats you up a little bit. You have to be ready, you have to manage your body, and that's what the training staff is doing for me."
Walker certainly isn't the only one getting some attention from the trainers, who aren't done dealing with the effects of UT's freakish run of injuries on defense last year.
New coach Derek Dooley indicated there haven't been any suffered since the end of the season, and though nobody was hurt during offseason conditioning, he compared that program to a MASH unit earlier in the week. Once practice officially started it wasn't difficult to see why.
Like he was at times last year, Walker was limited with some accumulated soreness, and he was joined by fellow end Ben Martin. Defensive back Art Evans is still on the mend from shoulder surgery and the Vols will be cautious with him. And perhaps most important, linebackers Herman Lathers, Nick Reveiz, Greg King and Savion Frazier are all still dealing with health concerns of some sort.
That provides plenty of company for the injured players on the sideline during practice, and also provides an early look at Dooley's policy for dealing with them.
"We look at it, they kind of have four objectives when they're banged up or injured," Dooley said. "First is rehabilitation - we want to get them back. Secondly, there's got to be a conditioning component because when they come back they need to be in good physical condition. Third thing is some kind of positional development that they can do. If they're limited in the arm, they can use their legs. If they're limited with a knee, they can do some things with their hands. We're going to keep working that.
"The fourth thing is we're going to keep getting good mental reps. So we have a plan for all our injured players, and it all depends on what the extent of what their injury is."
None of them figure to last into the fall or keep the Vols shorthanded on defense for long.
But after already spending more than two months off the field, any extra time spent with the trainers during practice might be too much at this point.
"(The trainers) aren't really doing things that I'd say they haven't done with me yet, but it's just stuff to manage (injuries)," Walker said. "There's going to be some pain, but I just have to manage the pain as well as I can.
"But I'll be out here sooner than everybody thinks."