Bray the gladiator

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Tennessee junior quarterback Tyler Bray is a fighter and he has proved it through several tough seasons.

His freshman year, Bray took his fair share of shots behind a young, unproven offensive line. As a sophomore, the Kingsburg, Cali., native tried to tough out a broken thumb against Georgia and then came back earlier than expected late in the season to get a win over Vanderbilt.

Saturday night in Starkville, Miss., those negative thoughts came rushing into head coach Derek Dooley's head after the SEC's second leading passer (288.6 ypd) came up limping after a six-yard scamper.

"I was worried, but when I saw him play through it the way he did, there is no way, if it was really serious, that he could have taken us on that drive the way he did," Dooley said Tuesday. "I was really worried the play after and the play after he missed the slant throw."

Bray, who sat out Monday's workout, was back on the practice field again Tuesday and said he was ready to go Monday, but was held back against his will.

"It feels great," Bray said of his knee. "I went out in team period and had a little run — juked A.J. out. It was good. I wanted to practice, but they kind of kept me out.

"I felt fine, I was ready to go, but they wanted to get me a little more rest. It is fine. It's not like I am dual threat quarterback — I don't need to run anywhere. I will run, I'm not scared."

Dooley says this is just another incident in a long line of displayed grit by the Vol signal caller, who has started eight games straight for the Vols.

"I think he always shows it," Dooley said. "This guy has got toughness that a lot of quarterbacks don't have.

"You saw it his first year when he got hit 682 times and he just kept getting up and throwing it. You saw it last year when he stayed in a play after he broke his thumb and tried to throw a pass, which is stupid to do that. And you saw him come back late in the season when he really wasn't ready. He couldn't throw very well, his hand was hurting, but he is a competitor. Anybody that questions that kid's toughness is out of their mind."

Bray is sporting a heavy knee brace this week and says he will wear it during the game Saturday, but added that Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron would always be sporting a knee brace after an injury earlier in the 2012 season.

Watch as Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley and select player spoke with the media Tuesday following practice at Haslam Field:

Jacques Smith

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