Tigers Won't Ease Practice Despite Injuries

It all started during the very first fall practice when Curtis Baham landed on and separated his shoulder while going for a pass. <BR><BR> It continued nonstop through Wednesday's practice with the news that Kelvin Grant has a bruised thigh and Airese Currie has a stiff knee.

And in between those two practices, defensive end Vontrell Jamison broke his arm, wide receiver Michael Collins tore a quad muscle and running back Duane Coleman broke his foot.

The injuries seem to be everywhere early on in the 2004 season. But despite the practice field resembling a M.A.S.H. unit, the Tigers won't ease up in their hitting – unless of course a lot more players go down.

"I think some has to do with if I have a real deep position and get a couple, I can sustain (the hitting)," head coach Tommy Bowden said. "But if it were a critical position where I was real, real thin, then I'd have to evaluate it. I think I'm in pretty good shape right now. … But if another two go down, we'd really have to consider it."

The position hit hardest of all early on has bee at wide receiver. It seems just as one gets healthy, another goes down. But depending on how you choose to look at it, that can be a positive.

"There's an advantage to this: Get them out now and get them back," offensive coordinator Mike O'Cain said. "If you're going to get them, get them now, don't get them in three weeks when they're going to miss one or two ball games.

"The injuries haven't come in hitting. They've come in sprained ankles here and sprained ankles there. Duane was in a hitting drill, but it didn't have anything to do with the contact. That's the way you play it. You've got to have contact. You've got to teach young men and they've got to learn how to hit and have a physical part of it. Knock-on-wood, but we haven't had the serious injury."

As bad as all of this may seem to the casual observer, the coaches believe the situation isn't that bad right now.

As bad as all of this may seem to the casual observer, the coaches believe the situation isn't that bad right now.
"Everybody's that's been in the business has seen that and it's not unusual," offensive line coach Brad Scott said. "Hopefully it won't happen here. I've seen situations where it's been all shoulders, all knees or all ankles. It's just kind of part of the game.

"This is where having been here for five years, and having some successful recruiting to help us, we'll have some other players take the field that have some talent but lack the experience some of these injured players have. Five years ago, it probably would have been a lot worse situation than it is now."

O'Cain said the worse part of all this is that the players who are injured are missing peak conditioning days. But he added as long as they get back soon, things should be just fine.

"This is the big conditioning part of it right now," he said. "But the older guys that have been here several years, they can get it back in a couple of weeks. I think that most guys that have played a year or two, you get them back for two weeks then you've got a good chance to get them back into shape.

"Usually the week before game week, you're still conditioning pretty good. Now, the week of the game, you back off. So as long as we can get them back by the middle of next week, then I think we'll be OK. If you start getting later than that, then it becomes a concern."

So until a few serious injuries occur, the Tigers will continue to hit, tackle and claw their way through every practice. Scott says there's no other way.

"I don't think you can afford to do that right now," he said. "What you try to do is get through a week-and-a-half of two-a-days and maybe a couple of full scrimmages like we'll have (Thursday) and Saturday.

"I've always been under the opinion and impression that you've got to keep pushing your kids because you've got to get 22 guys ready to play. And you won't be ready for your early games in the season if you don't have contact and if you don't put them in game-live situations. Injuries are part of the game."

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