Too many surgeries?

Tennessee's football program may be approaching the world record for offseason surgeries.

Junior wide receiver Jayson Swain underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his knee earlier this week at the UT Medical Center day surgery center. Dr. William Youmans performed the operation, and Swain was discharged the same afternoon. Swain, who caught 29 balls for 388 yards and four touchdowns last fall, is expected to return to action for fall drills.

By my count, Swain is the 25th Volunteer to undergo surgery since the 2004 season ended with a 38-7 Cotton Bowl pasting of Texas A&M. Maybe you're wondering: Is this cause for alarm?

No. Here's why:

1. Most of the procedures, like Swain's, were minor cleanup-type deals. A notable exception was the operation on center Richie Gandy, who had reconstructive surgery to repair a torn ACL. Even so, Gandy recently told me doctors expect him to be ready by the 2005 opener. It appears that all 25 of the players who went under the knife in recent months will be available for Game 1 duty vs. Alabama Birmingham.

2. There are no UT games in April, May, June, July and August. These are the best months for players to rehabilitate following surgery. Obviously, it's much better to get rehab out of the way during the spring and summer than to undergo surgery in August or September, when a player's entire season may be jeopardized.

3. Most of the surgical procedures involved players who already have proved themselves, rather than young players still trying to earn playing time. Gandy, again, is an exception. He played sparingly in 2004 but was projected as the No. 1 center for 2005 prior to his injury. On the plus side, though, David Ligon got a tremendous number of practice repetitions during Gandy's spring absence, meaning the Vols now have TWO guys who appear capable of playing the center position.

4. Finally, wouldn't you rather go into the season with a guy who's 100-percent healthy but a little rusty than a guy who's 80-percent healthy due to a nagging injury?

Bottom line: Twenty-five offseason surgeries sounds like an epidemic that could threaten the 2005 season. When you consider the factors above, however, the Vol staff clearly made a wise decision getting all of these procedures out of the way before the pads go on in August.

THAT is when it becomes vital for players to be hitting, not sitting.


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