Simms, Bray vying for starting position
Tennessee Stat Book
Derek Dooley walked over to a group of reporters after Tuesday's practice with his head down.
A joke about his World War II-themed tangent at Monday's news conference brought a brief smile to the Tennessee coach's face, but he quickly retreated toward his displeased aura that came as a result of a lackluster two hours of practice.
"It's not something that's unique to these guys," Dooley said. "It's human nature not to be able to wake up every day and bring your best.
"There is no other option. It doesn't matter if you're hurtin', 'I'm sick, I got the flu, I got the swine flu.' It doesn't matter. You work. And you go to work and you put it all in every day."
Dooley said he was unhappy that "a couple of people in our organization" called in sick Monday.
"Are you kidding me?" Dooley asked. "You shouldn't be sick on a Monday. Nobody gets sick on a Monday. You're not sick.
"If I gave you a million dollars, would you go to work today if you're sick? 'Oh yeah, I would have gone.' Then why didn't you go? What do you need a million dollars for? If you can go, go. That's your obligation to the organization. That's how it works."
Though the Vols have struggled to a 2-5 start and are the only team in the SEC without a conference win, Dooley has largely been pleased with his team's performance at practices during the past month. After two physical practices during the bye week, Dooley said he could have used "about 100 of those."
Tuesday, which featured ominous skies and light rain during the first hour, was obviously a different story.
"Hypothetically, on a given team, some guys get the 'poor me's,' " Dooley said. " 'Poor me, I'm not playing good. Poor me, we're not winning. Poor me, the coaches are on me. Poor me, class, study hall . . . ' Nobody really cares about that. Some guys just mentally chose not to bring it. Sometimes that happens."
Senior linebacker LaMarcus Thompson said Dooley "definitely let us know" his feelings about Tuesday's practice because "he's a guy that's going to tell you straight up what it is.
"The guys that have been winning since they were in middle school and never really had a losing season - that's just one of those things growing up and having to experience things that are new," Thompson said. "This will be good for them and we know we have to work harder."
Simms on the Mend: Matt Simms conceded that he might have to wear a sleeve on his sprained left knee Saturday against South Carolina, but he's nowhere near ready to concede his job to freshman Tyler Bray.
"I believe my performance in the game wasn't great, but it was good enough to show everyone the reason why I'm the starter and the leader of the offense," Simms said of his performance against Alabama, when he was 12-of-22 for 117 yards and an interception. "I'm focused on getting this offense in the end zone and not being denied in the red zone like last week."
Dooley said Simms, who didn't practice Monday but went through all of Tuesday's practice, is "showing big jumps every day." Simms said his knee was "a little sore" near the end of Tuesday's practice.
"The mental wear on the injury kind of got to me at the end of practice," he said. "You want it to go away so bad and you do all this stuff and all the treatment to get rid of it. It kind of stinks at times, but the trainers are helping me out a lot."
Not for Kicks: Daniel Lincoln (quadriceps) did not kick in practice and will miss his fourth consecutive game Saturday, Dooley said.
Lincoln, who has not kicked since the UAB game in September, is 7-for-7 on field goals and 11-of-12 on extra points this season.
Give Me Moore: Wide receiver Denarius Moore was still wearing a red jersey at practice, but said he does not have to take any more tests for the concussion he sustained in the first quarter against Alabama.
"I'm free to go," he said.
Cornered: Safety Prentiss Waggner has temporarily moved back to his old position of cornerback this week because of a turf toe injury to Marsalis Teague.
Teague's status for Saturday's game is up in the air. So too, apparently, is the experiment to slide Waggner to cornerback and increase freshman Brent Brewer's playing time at safety.
"I don't know if we're better with Prentiss at corner or not," Dooley said. "We're going to keep experimenting to see if we can get our personnel right."
Andrew Gribble can be reached at 865-342-6327.