''He has a few bumps and bruises that we don't want to get worse,'' receiver coach Pat Washington explained.
Green jersey or not, Brown is emerging as a leading candidate to start the Vols' Aug. 31 season opener against Wyoming.
''There's no doubt,'' Pat Washington said. ''This is his third year, and you can tell a big difference between him and Montrell Jones, who has only been here one year. Tony understands more of what's going on and he has more confidence in himself.''
Brown redshirted as a freshman in 2000 but drew rave reviews from veteran teammates for his work in practice. He had back problems in 2001, however, and made just one catch all of last season (vs. Michigan in the Citrus Bowl). Now he appears to be returning to the form that made him such a promising prospect two years ago.
''He had back surgery late in his freshman year, and I think he's finally healed from that surgery,'' Pat Washington said. ''Tony's putting things together. He's having a really good two-a-days, and I feel good about him right now.''
To claim a starting job, Brown must hold off senior Leonard Scott, sophomore Montrell Jones and redshirt freshmen C.J. Fayton and Jomo Fagan. Scott has the best speed, Jones the best hands, Fayton the best athleticism of the group. All five are still mastering the intricacies of UT's scheme.
''I think they're trying to put together their skills and learn the offense right now,'' Washington said. ''It's more knowing HOW to do than WHAT to do. I think the guys know what to do; it's how to do things against certain looks (that creates occasional problems). Sometimes it gets confusing, and when they're confused, they're not as good as they can possibly be.''
Still, the receivers coach feels good about his troops.
''The pieces are coming together,'' he said. ''It's just going to take a little time. I've got enough patience to know that we've got guys who can fit the mold and do the things we want done. It's just a matter of understanding what we want them to do, and being more consistent.
''The good thing about it is, when you've got four or five guys trying to be one (starter), you have three pretty good backups who can play, as well. It creates competition, which is good, and it creates depth.''
Brown's chief competition for the remaining starting job at receiver may be Jones, who is a step faster than last spring.
''Montrell seems to be quicker,'' Pat Washington said. ''He's also bigger and stronger than last year. Those are great things. The game is physical, and you've got to be able to take a lot of pounding. I think his body's ready for it and I think his feet are ready for it. We just have to make sure his mind is ready for it. That's the biggest thing for him ... the mental part of the game.''
''One is short, one is tall ... one is real fast and one is fast,'' Washington quipped. ''Jonathan can run. He has great quickness. He's only 165 pounds, though, so he's getting bumped around some by our veteran secondary. And Hannon is just 180 pounds soaking wet.
''The strength level is not there for those two but the kids are working hard. I think both of them will be fine football players here.''