Dooley clears air after WR misses workout
By Austin Ward
No absence from practice and no drama.
Da'Rick Rogers simply went back to work.
Just two days after missing a workout and sparking widespread speculation about his future with the Tennessee football team, the mercurial wide receiver was back in pads and on the field Saturday morning, still a member of the team and obviously cleared to participate again.
"You know, it was something he had to do, he did it and he's back," UT coach Derek Dooley said. "He's doing good. He had a good day out there. He had good energy, good job covering punts a couple times.
"He's obviously an extremely talented player. Glad he took care of what he had to do."
Dooley didn't provide any specifics on what exactly the junior needed to take care of before returning to spring camp. But the issue was apparently resolved quickly over the 48 hours since Rogers was a no-show at practice on Thursday and then made comments to a recruiting site that covers Georgia State suggesting he might transfer after two productive seasons with the Vols.
Even if he was sticking around, there also was some uncertainty about his status with the Vols following a two-week ban from team activities that multiple sources confirmed Rogers was given during the offseason for physically threatening a strength coach.
But Dooley made clear on Thursday that Rogers was not facing a suspension and could return to the team as early as its next practice — which he did, jumping right back into drills and flashing the athleticism that made him a first-team All-SEC pick last fall.
Rogers was not made available to the media on Saturday, but Dooley indicated the two "talked for hours" and a possible departure was never discussed.
"There was zero indications of any of that stuff," Dooley said. "(The conversations were) very positive — extremely positive.
"Da'Rick has been fine. I don't worry about (him being a distraction), and if he
is, then we handle it just like any other player."
How exactly the Vols handled Rogers during the past couple days wasn't disclosed publicly, though whatever approach both sides took allowed for them to get back together without the wideout missing more than one practice.
Aside from his valuable production after a breakout campaign last season, his return figures to provide a boost in camp merely because it adds another body to a position perilously low on experienced targets with Justin Hunter still recovering from knee surgery and only two other players with a catch currently on the roster.
But in terms of his numbers, it surely doesn't hurt when a player coming off a 67-catch, 1,040-yard campaign is reintroduced to the mix.
"It's like I said with all the players, it doesn't matter who it is, guys, even the best players, even the guys who seem like they've got everything going for them, there's a lot of meetings that you have with them because college football's hard," Dooley said. "It's tough. College is tough, life is tough and learning how to navigate through those waters, it takes a lot of mentoring, it takes a lot of time with them so that when they're playing in their competitive element, that they're free of all that clutter.
"We forget they're 18, 19, 20 years old. It's a whole new ballgame."
Rogers is once again back in it.