Simms: Mastering the art of taking a hit
Dooley: Summary of UT vs. UAB
Gerald Jones pronounced himself healthy and didn't leave any wiggle room.
The Tennessee receiver also is clearly aware of the challenge that's awaiting his return, and he didn't leave himself a lot of space there, either.
Cleared to return to practice and start catching balls again for the Vols, Jones didn't show any ill effects from the broken bone in his left hand during a workout Tuesday afternoon ahead of Saturday's trip to No. 12 LSU (TV: WVLT, 3:30 p.m.).
And he'll have every chance to prove he's back at 100 percent when he jumps right back into action against Patrick Peterson, perhaps the best cornerback in the nation.
"I'm full-go, all-out, 100 percent, I'm ready, I feel great," Jones said. "I'm like a kid at a candy store. I watched film on them for about two hours (Monday) because I was so eager, and I'm so ready for No. 7, Peterson. I'm ready for him, I probably watched film on him for about two hours yesterday.
"To be honest with you, I think a lot of people fear him because he is so big (at 6-foot-1, 222 pounds). He's a pretty good athlete, but he has his weakness, too.
"He's not Superman, and I'm going to give it my all and it's going to be a battle come Saturday."
Peterson has emerged as a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate for the Tigers (4-0, 2-0 SEC) with his big-play ability at cornerback and is a handful for any receiver, let alone a guy with a metal plate protecting the left one and a middle finger that was broken in UT's season opener.
But after staying out extra to test himself a little more and dropping only one ball while back at practice, Jones didn't shy away from the challenge.
And after missing three games and watching the Vols (2-2, 0-1 SEC) struggle to pick up third downs in his absence, he was practically giddy at the chance to get back on the field against anybody.
"It's hard to see that, and I felt like (Denarius Moore) was kind of helpless because teams were bringing a corner and safety over him and making the young guys beat them," Jones said. "It won't be that way this coming weekend.
"My biggest goal was just to try to stay positive for my teammates and for myself. I did a good job with that away from football when normally I don't when I get hurt.
"The hardest thing is when I come to practice and when I watch the games and I see things that maybe I could probably help with the team, but I'm helpless on the sideline. It's frustrating, but I didn't let it show, and I'm proud of myself because that let me know - maybe I'm growing up. Maybe I'm becoming a man."
That veteran approach is particularly important for a team relying so heavily on youth, and Jones helped supply a professional example while working his way back over the last three games.
In fact, Jones indicated he was in better shape now than when the season officially started with him grabbing six catches for 86 yards against UT Martin - though part of that might be attributed to the adrenaline boost his clearance provided.
"Gerald looked good, moving around good, catching the ball well, so we'll see how the week goes," Vols coach Derek Dooley said. "The first day is always easy, it's like that first round of golf in the spring when you've had about nine months off. You go out there and stroke it and go, 'I've got it.' Then you go out there that second round and you're all over the place. We'll see how he does tomorrow.
"You can't ever really be in game-shape, but he has run a lot because it was a hand and not a leg, knee or ankle. . . . He's a senior, and you could tell (it was like), 'Boom, I'm good.' There was no sign of (an issue) - and you can't make excuses."