John Adams: Vols trying to play through the pain

Tennessee is multi-tasking this spring as it attempts to right the wrongs of a 5-7 football season. The Vols are trying to learn the 3-4 defense, revive their running game and adjust to a slew of new assistant coaches.

But nothing is higher on the to-do list than becoming a tougher team. Linebacker Herman Lathers confronted that challenge in Saturday afternoon's spring scrimmage.

The confrontation left him with an elastic bandage on his left elbow. It also probably left him in the good graces of new defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri.

The former Alabama associate head coach is apparently charged with more responsibility than reshaping UT's defense. He also is one of the most vocal leaders in the campaign to toughen up.

"Coach Sal stresses that if you are not really injured or hurt and nobody has to drag you off the field, then don't come off the field," Lathers said. "So that's what I try to do."

Staying on the field required extra effort for Lathers, who missed last season with a fractured ankle. He said he hyperextended his elbow in the scrimmage.

"It just went numb for a while, but I'm the mike linebacker of the defense," he said. "If I pull myself out, the defense won't run as good."

That's just what Sunseri wants to hear — and head coach Derek Dooley, too, for that matter.

"Herman is doing great," Dooley said. "He's flying around ... He's not giving me that 'Well, I'm 80 percent.' We're 100 percent.

"When you've had as many injuries as he has, the first sign of pain probably makes you a little nervous. He's working through it and really playing good football for us."

Players in pain rarely have found Dooley to be a compassionate listener. So the emphasis on toughness is hardly a new development. It has just been amplified after last season's team failed to measure up.

"I told the team the other day life wouldn't be so difficult if you didn't expect it to be so easy," Dooley said. "So when you get hit and it hurts, you shouldn't be surprised. You should expect it to hurt. You get up and you go play again. We're getting better at that."

There's another side to the pain issue. Is it a warning to the player that he's risking further injury by staying on the field, or that he could hurt his team by playing in an impaired state?

The player doesn't have to make that decision on his own, Dooley said. That's where UT's trainers come in.

"The trainers know who is a drama queen," Dooley said. "And sometimes, you've got to pull guys out. Brent Brewer — I think he has forgotten he has had a (knee injury). He's out there flying around, diving.

"But some guys, when they get hit, they have to have this big seance to let the whole stadium know: 'Look at me. I'm in pain.' That's what we've got to get rid of."

Dooley referenced UT's second-half woes last season while elaborating on the importance of building a tougher mind-set. UT was outscored 160-77 in the second half. The better the opponent, the worse it got for the Vols after halftime.

Top-five teams Arkansas, LSU and Alabama outscored them 80-0 in the second half.

"This sport is about who's going to break whose will," Dooley said. "At some point, you break his will, or he breaks your will.

"We got our will broken a little too much last year."

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns.

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 27

CroKev writes:

I remember once when I got a paper cut on my lip when licking an envelope. Man, I was sidelined for a week...

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

I hope that each UT football player brings a mindset to each game saying "this ain't last year". Each game, every game. Start with the pregame meal. When asked how each player wants his pregame meal cooked, I hope each one says, "raw". Let's make 2012 a season for coming hungry.

KingDanno (Inactive) writes:

Give em hell till they give other ranked teams hell.

TitanandVolfan4life writes:

Most people forget how much of football is the mental attitude of the players.

I'm glad to hear that CDD is seriously working on that because when players accept losing then that losing culture can carry over from year to year and our Vols need to learn how to fight hard and WIN games in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

NEVER give up, refuse to lose, hit harder, line up quick and be ready to hit them hard again and again and stay strong the whole game and believe you can win with the last hit if that's what it takes.

Sometimes a strong, positive mental attitude makes alot more difference than most people will ever know.

Get tough boys, mentally and physically, and lets WIN lots of games this fall.

VFL...GBO!!!

MeanieT writes:

Mental toughness is a must to play football, bro. Hope it all works out for him and all players, everywhere.

gerwmor writes:

The more we learn about Coach Sal, the more I think he is exactly what this team needed. He even has the look of an old time, hit em hard football player. Dooley can do what he does best, look and act like a board room coach, as long as he has assistants who look, talk, and act like old time coaches and pass that attitude on to the players. After the past five years, it is hard to not fear the worst about this season, but there are signs that this can be the turn around year. I have been thinking 8 wins, but maybe, just maybe, with some luck with injuries, 9 is possible. And that 9th one I am about to add is against Florida!

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

I love it. Toughness has been the missing element the last few years. I remember a hand-to-hand combat instructor saying: "If someone is trying to kill your child, your mother, your wife or girlfriend, you're not going to worry about how tired you are or how much you hurt. The only thing that will matter is killing your enemy. That's the way you must approach every fight." Go Vols, get tough!

orangecountyvols writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wrong............the biggest pain is seeing kids like you here.

What a brat. Grow up kid.

born2ride writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Dooley needs to win 9 games (very unlikely) or he is out of here.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

in response to gerwmor:

The more we learn about Coach Sal, the more I think he is exactly what this team needed. He even has the look of an old time, hit em hard football player. Dooley can do what he does best, look and act like a board room coach, as long as he has assistants who look, talk, and act like old time coaches and pass that attitude on to the players. After the past five years, it is hard to not fear the worst about this season, but there are signs that this can be the turn around year. I have been thinking 8 wins, but maybe, just maybe, with some luck with injuries, 9 is possible. And that 9th one I am about to add is against Florida!

You say it's hard not to fear the worst of this season?

volnbig11land writes:

in response to orangecountyvols:

Wrong............the biggest pain is seeing kids like you here.

What a brat. Grow up kid.

+1. Unfortunately,until her Mom takes her computer, she probably won't go anywhere....

volnbig11land writes:

in response to born2ride:

Dooley needs to win 9 games (very unlikely) or he is out of here.

Wow, I didn't realize you worked in the athletic department or otherwise have inside info.

oldster writes:

I remember in high school when a team mate stepped on my hand with a shoe that had a missing cleat (i.e. only a post which, for those of you who did not play ball in the stone age, is like a screw sticking out of the bottom of the shoe). It went about a third of the way through my hand, missing bones though, and bled like a stuck hog. I waived the thing around getting blood on everyone. The coach said, "Get back in the huddle. You can hurt tomorrow." Thanks, coach. I did (of course, I hurt then, too).

oldster writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Nah. It is realizing that you are a "fan."

senracjr writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

an even bigger pain is seeing people like you crawling out of your hole

senracjr writes:

in response to oldster:

Nah. It is realizing that you are a "fan."

he isn't a fan he's a s*it weasel

NorthwestVol writes:

"I told the team the other day life wouldn't be so difficult if you didn't expect it to be so easy"

I love it.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

This is the year all the hard work and playing Fr/Soph's pays off..GBO!!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Salma_Hayek_is_my_Wife:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You mean, my Celtics (which are on a roll) and my Cardinals that are in first place as usual..

AllVol1 writes:

That stat says it all: Arkansas, Alabama, and LSU outscored UT 80-0 in the second halves last year. That's almost 27 points to 0 in each second half. Absolutely brutal stat!

I know we need to focus on improvement and not dwell in negativity, but we also need to learn from the past. That is a past that I hope we do not repeat. I hope with this stress on toughness, some natural sense of pride is being developed! Go Vols!

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to CroKev:

I remember once when I got a paper cut on my lip when licking an envelope. Man, I was sidelined for a week...

I can see you as a licker Zippy. What did momma say about your boo boo?

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to AllVol1:

That stat says it all: Arkansas, Alabama, and LSU outscored UT 80-0 in the second halves last year. That's almost 27 points to 0 in each second half. Absolutely brutal stat!

I know we need to focus on improvement and not dwell in negativity, but we also need to learn from the past. That is a past that I hope we do not repeat. I hope with this stress on toughness, some natural sense of pride is being developed! Go Vols!

Or petition the NCAA to cut the game down to 2 quarters in stead of 4.

Bubba_Knows writes:

in response to orangeblooded83:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

7-5 instead of 5-7?

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

Somebody needs to tell Adams, Doodley, the Alabama mafia running UT Athletics and the
players who are receiving $300,000 in equivalent value, as UT scholarship athletes,

that fans of UT Football under Doodley,
and UT Basketball under GonzoQuonzo,
have been through a hexx of a lot more pain
than any of them, these last several years.

The amazing thing is that the dumbaxxes who
fired Coach Fulmer upped the cost of athletics
by almost $15,000,000 in payouts and guarantees, and reduced the income of UT Athletics by at least $15,000,000 more due to lost revenues in higher-level bowls---bowls at all---higher revenues in having games against teams good enough that somebody would want to broadcast them on something other than stinking Online broadcasts.

All of 'em are second rate---trustees, administrators like Doofus Hamilton, coaches like Doodley and Gonzo, players and the legislature for allowing a $125,000,000/year
enterprise---that is ONE-HALF A BILLION DOLLARS A DECADE---to perform like it was some
hick high school in a south Georgia swamp.

And the fact they allowed the same agent to represent both sides of coach/administrator negotiations needs to be looked into by the TBI.

JMO

Navaloranges writes:

in response to toddyboy:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

"Dooley" fans? Really? What are you, a "Fulmer" fan? a "saban" fan?

That statement goes a long way in helping me understand your MAIN problem. WE ARE UT FANS. Not fans of a COACH. No coach is bigger than UT, and UT doesn't throw away coaches that haven't had a FAIR chance to rebuild a team AFTER another couple of coaches brought it down. GET IT?

And to answer your question on whether you're an old man or a child...Doesn't matter in actual years, but you most obviously have the MENTALITY of a juvenile. And the football knowledge of an infant. Did you ever look up the term "rebuilding"...guess not.

volthrunthru#658770 writes:

in response to volthrunthru#658770:

Somebody needs to tell Adams, Doodley, the Alabama mafia running UT Athletics and the
players who are receiving $300,000 in equivalent value, as UT scholarship athletes,

that fans of UT Football under Doodley,
and UT Basketball under GonzoQuonzo,
have been through a hexx of a lot more pain
than any of them, these last several years.

The amazing thing is that the dumbaxxes who
fired Coach Fulmer upped the cost of athletics
by almost $15,000,000 in payouts and guarantees, and reduced the income of UT Athletics by at least $15,000,000 more due to lost revenues in higher-level bowls---bowls at all---higher revenues in having games against teams good enough that somebody would want to broadcast them on something other than stinking Online broadcasts.

All of 'em are second rate---trustees, administrators like Doofus Hamilton, coaches like Doodley and Gonzo, players and the legislature for allowing a $125,000,000/year
enterprise---that is ONE-HALF A BILLION DOLLARS A DECADE---to perform like it was some
hick high school in a south Georgia swamp.

And the fact they allowed the same agent to represent both sides of coach/administrator negotiations needs to be looked into by the TBI.

JMO

Got so p.o.'d thinking about these doofuses pixxing away all that money that I did the math wrong.

They are mismanaging $1-BILLION DOLLARS every decade.

Thanks Legislature for allowing this phooey.

CroKev writes:

in response to Bubba_Knows:

I can see you as a licker Zippy. What did momma say about your boo boo?

She renamed my boo-boo "Bubba" but then you "know" that...

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