Naz Oliver on Da'Rick Rogers' absence from practice Thursday
Already short on hands, the top returning set of them was nowhere to be found on the practice field.
There's no certainty when Da'Rick Rogers might be around to put his productive mitts back to work for the Tennessee football team. And there's also now a question of even if he'll return to the program.
The junior wide receiver was notably missing as the Vols went through their third practice of spring camp on Thursday morning at Haslam Field, an absence that was followed by a report from Panthersville.com that Rogers was considering a transfer to Georgia State.
"Georgia State would be the only place I'd look at," Rogers told the website.
The other option remains sticking with the Vols for a third season, and coach Derek Dooley was unaware of any decision by Rogers and indicated he wasn't facing suspension from his current program, leaving his official status as something of a mystery.
That was the policy earlier this week as well when Dooley declined to address a two-week ban from offseason activities for Rogers for conduct detrimental to the team, which multiple sources confirmed was a physical threat to a strength coach. The sources requested anonymity because no official announcement was made by UT.
But that punishment ended before practice resumed, and it didn't keep him off the field for the first two sessions before he disappeared on Thursday.
"I don't have any knowledge of him wanting to leave," Dooley said after the workout. "He's never told me that, or indicated that to me or anybody else.
"Da'Rick, he's got some things he's got to do internally and when he does them, he'll be back. It's kind of an internal, team issue. And it's something he's just got to finish doing some stuff and when he does, he'll be back."
Dooley suggested that could happen as early as today, though his post-practice media session was almost immediately followed by the report that Rogers was weighing a move to Georgia State — a Football Championship Subdivision member on UT's schedule in the fall.
If that contest is going to be a home game for him at Neyland Stadium, Dooley stressed that Rogers has work to do before he can practice again with the Vols. But he never called the situation a suspension for the first-team All-SEC performer, seemingly leaving the door open for Rogers and a choice about his future up to him.
"We've got faith in Da'Rick," junior Naz Oliver said. "Whatever he decides to do, whatever he's doing, we're just going to go with him. He's our teammate, he's our family and we're just going to work with it like that.
"I have visited with him. I don't really know what's going on. I haven't spoken to him today, I haven't seen him today. I saw him yesterday and everything was fine yesterday."
At some point on Wednesday that changed for Rogers, though neither teammates nor Dooley went into any details about his situation.
"We deal with issues all the time, guys," Dooley said. "I think it's probably because of who he is and the success he had, it makes it a bigger story. And I understand that. That's just part of coaching. You're never going to have a time where you don't have problems.
"Listen, my worries when I'm out on the practice field are the 90 guys out there. That's all I can focus on and that's what the team is focused on. It's just like a guy with an injury. We can't worry about the guys that are not out there, and we come in the next day and try to reshape things the next day and see who's out there."
But with Justin Hunter still on the mend from his knee surgery and only two other returning wide receivers with previous experience on the spring roster, when one guy isn't out there it's hard to miss.
Particularly when it's the one with the most production of the bunch.
"I mean, it is what it is," Zach Rogers said. "You know, we come out here and we don't worry about what happens off the field.
"We're coming out here working with the players that we have here, and we're still Tennessee."
When or if Da'Rick Rogers will lend a hand or two to that effort again remains to be seen.