Nearly five months since he broke his ankle and for the first time since the Music City Bowl last season, Tennessee linebacker Herman Lathers strapped on the pads and practiced with the Vols.
Lathers, a redshirt junior who wore a green, non-contact jersey, won't play Saturday against Middle Tennessee State and his status for the remainder of the season remains a "day by day" ordeal, but Tuesday's activity was considered a step in the right direction.
"I wouldn't say he's full blow ready to go but it was good to see him get his pads on and take a couple of hits," coach Derek Dooley said. "We're just kind of monitoring day by day. He's not close to 100 percent."
Lathers was second on the Vols with 75 tackles last season. He sat out all of spring practice because of off-season shoulder surgery and was close to getting back to full strength when he suffered what many players described as a "nasty" fracture to his left ankle.
"I told him he needs to stop collecting checks on the sidelines and go do some work," defensive tackle Malik Jackson joked. "I'm glad he's back out here working."
Dooley was pleased with the practice, the first physical activity for the team since last Saturday's 14-3 loss to South Carolina. The days off were planned far in advance, Dooley said, and would have occurred even if the Vols were undefeated.
"It's all based on calendar and it was something that you know right in the beginning of the season when you're doing it," Dooley said. "The monotony of doing something so many weeks in a row can take its toll. I could see it really taking its toll almost earlier with our young guys."