Team Meeting

When Tennessee's embattled football players reported for summer camp on Thursday night, coach Phillip Fulmer had a team meeting.

He'd seen enough during the offseason. He'd seen a huge story in USA Today chronicling the Vols' off-the-field embarrassments - 13 citations or arrests over the past 18 months. He'd seen the headlines over the Tony McDaniel one-punch assault. He'd read where a respected Nashville columnist said you can't spell thug without a U and a T.

So the players got together to hash things out.

``It was incredible to feel the emotion as they apologized to the team about what had transpired during the summer and about embarrassing the program,'' Fulmer said.

``It's hard sometimes for young people to get in front of their peers. I think that's something our team has latched onto as a group. We've become closer through some of this adversity that we've faced.''

Senior linebacker Omar Gaither felt the same way.

``It was great,'' Gaither said. ``Sometimes when you hear about stuff, you never get the real story, so you have to hear it from the horse's mouth. I think everybody who had problems got up and explained the situation and apologized to the team. We all accepted them back and we're ready to move on.''

Asked if the meeting could galvanize the team, Gaither said: ``I think so. Some teams, through controversy, pull closer together. I think we can do that.''

Senior receiver C.J. Fayton said six or seven players talked.

The most emotional player?

Tony McDaniel, who was suspended for the first two games of the season for punching another student during a pickup basketball game in early January.

``You could hear it in Tony's voice, that he was really sorry for what he did and he's a changed man and it's not going to happen again,'' Fayton said.

Fayton, who's been a model citizen as a Vol, said he was asked by Fulmer to talk about what's important in life and about doing the right thing.

Fayton said he didn't see any tears, but it was good to see guys ``come clean and start a new slate and to get the bad stuff in the past and move on.''

Fayton thinks it will have a bonding affect on the team.

``I think that was the main purpose of it,'' Fayton said.

Defensive end Parys Haralson's take on the meeting: ``It showed a lot of guys care about the team. I was excited they got up and were big enough men to tell what they did and apologize for it. We've had a lot of off-the-field accidents, but we're not worried about that right now. Everybody's back and we're ready to start.''

Fulmer concurred with Haralson.

``I thought it cleared the air some and made a statement to some of the younger players in the room that if you make mistakes like this, the consequences are considerable,'' Fulmer said.

``There are two ways to learn things. One, you do something yourself or you learn from others. Hopefully, we'll have some young people that will learn from others.''

Fulmer talked about giving second chances.

``Occasionally you lose one,'' he said. ``Occasionally it doesn't work out. Occasionally a kid won't change. . But for everyone you lose, they are 50 you saved that went on and had tremendous (athletic) careers, tremendous academic careers and were successful citizens and husbands and fathers - and that's what we're about.''

* Former Tennessee athletic director Doug Dickey was on the field during Saturday's media day, getting his picture taken with grandson Dylan Dickey.

Not many families have enjoyed a third generation at Tennessee's media day.

Dylan is the son of Don Dickey. He played quarterback at Farragut but suffered a torn labrum muscle under his right (throwing) shoulder while rock climbing at a senior party lockin. He couldn't throw a football for over a year, delaying his enrollment at UT.

By the way, the last time a Dickey was a quarterback on a UT team, the Vols won the SEC - in 1985.

Doug Dickey was walking around with a cane, less than a month removed from hip replacement surgery.

* Tennessee sold 9,400 chairback seats at $35 each for home games last season. Thus far, UT has sold 8,000. The price was $35 before Aug. 1, $40 thereafter. UT had sold 5,000 at this time last year. To order one, call 1-877-610-4140.

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