Linebacker Greg King on the mend
The knee has been feeling fine, so Greg King got rid of the bulky brace he was sporting at the start of spring.
Then the Tennessee linebacker felt a little pain in his back, giving him yet another reason to seek out some physical treatment.
King largely has made himself at home with the training staff almost since arriving on campus, running into injury after injury after a promising start to his career as a true freshman. There was elbow surgery, then knee trouble last spring that ultimately was followed by surgery last fall — but after all that, King finally appears to be free to cut it loose on the field again.
Now King must knock off the rust that has accumulated after missing so much action.
“I had really just got back into doing everything because last year I sat out for a nice minute and I wasn’t doing too much,” King said. “So I just got into it, then the back started giving me problems but the knee was OK.
“I’m doing good now. . . . (The brace) just went back into the locker room. I don’t need it, but I do use it sometimes just to be safe.”
The Vols surely would prefer for King to take any precautionary measures he feels necessary at this point, because there’s little doubt he could be a huge boost to the linebacker corps.
Working without expected starter Herman Lathers throughout the spring as he recovers from surgery of his own, UT has put the spotlight on King, Austin Johnson and Daryl Vereen to fill the void at outside linebacker. And if King is able to regain his form and live up to the promise he showed early while making 24 tackles with an interception in nine games before chipping a bone in his elbow in 2009, he at least should solidify a spot in the rotation at weak-side linebacker — provided he stays healthy.
“We need Greg to be a dependable player,” Vols coach Derek Dooley said. “He’s obviously got the size and he’s got the explosion, but he’s missed a lot of football and he’s got a long way to go. He’s doing a little better, and I saw some signs out there today. But I think it’s going to be a long work in progress.
“I haven’t seen the gimping around like I did for a whole year, so that part is good. Now it’s, OK, you’re not gimping anymore so let’s learn how to tackle a guy. You know, before it was because, ‘I’m hurt.’ Well, now what is it? You just can’t tackle. Let’s learn how to tackle.”
The prerequisite for that class is being physically cleared for contact, which obviously has been the biggest hurdle for King for more than a year now.
But after five practices this spring, there’s been no need for a red jersey or any real limits on what King can do during a workout. Lately, King hasn’t even needed that oversized brace, which he wore when spring practice opened.
“I just had to go for it, because I’m not going to be using it during the spring game or anything,” King said. “Just go for it.
“This is huge, man. I feel like I’m going to be a big part of the team this year, and I’m just trying to get into it. I’m playing a new position now, and I’m just trying to get into that rhythm. I’m just trying to learn everything I can right now, because you never know who might go down — things happen.”
Probably nobody is as aware of that as King, who often has been the one going down. But he’s up again now and apparently confident enough not to need any extra support.
Austin Ward covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274. Follow him at http://twitter.com/Vols_Beat and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/ward.