Ainge's finger broken

After a barrage of conflicting comments, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer announced Wednesday afternoon that quarterback Erik Ainge does, indeed, have a broken little finger on his throwing hand.

Fulmer said Tuesday that Ainge had a jammed finger on his right hand.

And Erik Ainge, as late as 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, said his finger was not broken.

But backup quarterback Jonathan Crompton said he knew Ainge had a broken finger on Tuesday.

X-rays revealed the break. The injury allegedly occurred during Monday's practice. Fulmer said it was when Ainge took a snap. Ainge said it was on a handoff. Fulmer reiterated Wednesday that Ainge was hurt taking a snap.

Fulmer said Ainge will play against Cal in the opener Saturday.

``It looks like he's going to be able to throw fine,'' Fulmer said. ``I appreciate him showing the toughness to get himself back out there.

``If it doesn't work out great, then obviously Jonathan (Crompton) will have to be ready. I have the utmost confidence in Jonathan getting the job done.''

Crompton has been taking most of the snaps with the No. 1 offense, Fulmer said.

Fulmer said he has seen Ainge throw the ball and that Ainge, a senior who set a school record for completion percentage last year, is throwing well.

But Fulmer added: ``Just how much it affects his throwing ability remains to be seen.''

Ainge had a big game against California in last year's opener, passing for 291 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-18 rout.

Last season, after Ainge suffered an ankle injury against South Carolina in the eighth game, Crompton relieved Ainge after two series against LSU and was 11 of 24 for 183 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-24 loss.

Against Arkansas the next week, Crompton started and was 16 of 34 for 174 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 road defeat.

Fulmer said the fact Crompton has played is beneficial.

``He played pretty well in the LSU game, probably not as well as he'd like to against Arkansas,'' Fulmer said. ``But we're fortunate to have a backup with his experience and his ability.''

Fulmer said Crompton has done a good job as a backup of staying focused and realizing he's just one play away from being under center.

``That's a hard thing to do,'' Fulmer said, ``but he's got plenty of tools and I think he'll be just fine. Jonathan has continued to progress and get himself in position to be a starting quarterback in the SEC.''

Fulmer said Crompton, rated the nation's No. 2 quarterback prospect coming out of high school, had more ``pep in his step'' on Wednesday.

But, Fulmer added: ``Jon is not an emotional person. He does what he does very well. I have confidence in him. We'll have to play well as a team regardless of who's the quarterback.''

Fulmer said Ainge's injury could affect him for three to four weeks.


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