Curt Maggitt was hoping it wasn't that bad.
The redshirt senior felt something wrong in his hip during the first half of the Oklahoma game Sept. 12 and limped to the sideline, wishing the injury was just a temporary setback.
"When it happened I was like, 'All right, let me get off the field. That didn't feel right,'" Maggitt said. "I was hoping it was just a bad strain or something, but I knew it was pretty bad the next couple of nights when I couldn't sleep much. I got like 3-4 hours of sleep the next couple nights, so I just took it from there pretty much."
The hopeful strain turned out to be a bone chip which effectively shut down the hybrid linebacker/defensive end's season, taking away a big piece to Tennessee's puzzle and putting Maggitt's Tennessee future in doubt.
In his first public appearance to the media since his injury, Maggitt said he plans on playing football again, but whether it's at Tennessee or in the NFL remains to be seen.
"Right now my biggest thing is to make sure my guys are ready to get a nine-win season and for me to get as healthy as possible for this bowl game," Maggitt said. "It's really just taking it day by day. If I feel amazing, we'll see what happens."
The junior, who notched 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss last season as Derek Barnett's bookend, says he's unsure if he'll apply for a sixth medical redshirt season with the Vols.
"I'm grateful to play this game," Maggitt said. "I want to play as long as God allows me. As all kids, the NFL is a great dream, but I love this place and I would never leave if I didn't have to. It's been a great time here, and I'll talk to my family, and we'll weigh some pros and cons ... We'll look at it when that time comes."
Berry Good Season
Find an All-American list online and chances are Evan Berry's name is on it. The sophomore specialist led the country in kickoff return average with 38.29 yards per attempt, scoring three touchdowns on 804 yards. Berry was named a Walter Camp First Team All-American, a Sports Illustrated First Team All-American, a CBS Sports Second Team All-American and a FOX Sports Second Team All-American.
"It's definitely been a great feeling, not really focusing on individual accolades during the season or in the offseason, but when that times comes, as of right now, it's definitely a great feeling and I definitely appreciate the awards," Berry said after Tuesday's practice.
Berry became the first Walter Camp All-American at Tennessee since his brother, Eric, was named one in 2009.
"It's kind of funny, I didn't really think about it until I saw a tweet on my phone that said that," Berry said. "It's a great feeling just to have my brother do it right before me. I really can't describe it. It's just a great feeling."
The Fairburn, Georgia, native wasn't surprised by his astronomical rise to success as one of the best return men in the country. To him, it's what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
"It didn't surprise me at all," Berry said. "Knowing how hard our return team works in practice, just knowing that if you watch enough film and study our opponents enought, we know what they're going to do ... It's all about how you prepare, and we definitely prepare."
Berry became a household name with Tennessee fans for his long returns and ability to break tackles, making him the No. 1 returner in the NCAA.
"I have the time and distance to, I guess, make a guy miss," Berry said. "With that being said, it's also hard to tackle somebody and try to defeat a block at the same time. I take pride in not letting somebody tackle me and defeat a block at the same time."
Knocking Off Rust
After some time off for final exams, Tennessee hit the practice field once again for its 15 allotted bowl practices, most of which will take place in Knoxville. The offense is using the beginnings of the practice sessions to gain its chemistry back from the layoff.
"We had some time off, so just getting that rhythm back. Quarterbacks throwing with receivers, getting the message back with the quarterbacks and the running backs, the O-line getting back in sync, just little things like that."
So how much rust is there to knock off after a couple of weeks of no football?
"It's a lot, because the season ends and then we go into final and it kind of switches gears to just school-only mode and then we get a break," Kamara said. "Coming back, you've got to get the small things back, just the little mechanics."