UT QB Tyler Bray addresses questions about the bottle-throwing incident
After the first practice of his most anticipated season, Tyler Bray was marched to midfield of Tennessee's indoor practice facility, dripping with sweat, and quickly surrounded by a horde of reporters and cameras.
The junior quarterback wanted to talk about football, but he also understood why he was facing questions of a different sort between the Vols' two-a-day sessions Friday.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his name was linked to an investigation of vandalism on July 25 at his apartment complex, Bray said he was ready to move on from "a real stupid decision" that put him in an uncomfortable spotlight.
"I've just got to make smarter decisions," he said. "I thought I made some strides in being a team leader, and then I made some steps back in having that incident. But I'm trying to move forward and get to the football season."
Knoxville police said Thursday that Bray would not face charges in connection with two vandalism incidents at the Landings Riverfront Apartments.
Bray agreed to pay for damages to a vehicle that was pelted by beer bottles and golf balls. A second individual who believed her car was damaged in retaliation for reporting the original vandalism declined to pursue the matter after the apartment complex said it would cover her costs.
In addition to the public embarrassment, Bray said coach Derek Dooley meted out additional punishment that he declined to reveal.
Asked if he had already served the punishment, Bray replied, "I'm practicing, so yeah."
Bray passed for 1,983 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, represented the team at SEC Media Days and was showered with praise by coaches and teammates for his summer leadership. The awkward timing of his alleged indiscretions undermined the talk of his maturity.
But Bray said he needed no reminder of the pressure and scrutiny of being an SEC quarterback.
"I understood it (the scrutiny). I just made a stupid decision," he said. "I wasn't thinking. I need to throw footballs instead of that."
Teammates have been supportive.
QB Tyler Bray talks about starting fall camp
Sophomore running back Devrin Young said young people frequently make mistakes, but they don't always end up on the front page.
"I'd say there's a lot of things that we all have gotten away with in one stage or another," Young said. "Things happen in every program at every level. It happened, we're past it and it's camp time."
Dooley said Bray was mentally and physically sharp in the first practice.
"You could tell he put in a lot of work this summer," he said.
While difficult to draw sweeping conclusions from Day 1, Dooley said he was generally pleased with practice and nothing was "alarmingly bad." Lest that sound like faint praise, he added, "I've been alarmed by a lot of first practices (in the past)."
Dooley was most pleased by what he called the "administration of practice" — the organization, communication and crispness of the early session.
"It looked like practice 10 from an administrative standpoint," he said. "It was a big contrast from last year."
Bray's leadership was supposed to be a big part of that contrast in 2012, and the Vols believe it still can be.
While still a lanky 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds, Bray has added muscle and made himself more durable by spending more time with strength training.
"He looks better," Dooley said. "The weight room was not one of his friends for most of his career."
Mentally, Bray said he's never felt more confident in the offense.
"My line is going to block like they normally do and the receivers are going to catch the ball," Bray said. "So I've just got to go out and execute."
Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.