Will Kelley be back next fall?

Vol receiver Kelley Washington is undergoing surgery today in Dallas and will not play any more this football season. According to published reports, the surgery will fuse two vertabrae in Washington's neck. It is hoped that this will relieve pressure on a bulging disc that he reportedly sustained -- along with a concussion -- near the end of UT's Oct. 12 loss at Georgia. Washington has not played since.

The surgery will be performed by Dr. Drew Dossett, who has successfully performed this procedure on several pro athletes. The prognosis for a complete recovery is good.

A release provided by the UT sports information office quotes Washington as saying: ''I am looking forward to a full and complete recovery. I look forward to getting back to playing the game I love, and that is football.''

Vol head man Phillip Fulmer had mixed emotions upon learning of the scheduled surgery.

''We're disappointed the injury is to the extent that it is going to require surgery and missing the rest of the season,'' Fulmer said. ''We certainly have been working and preparing to go on with out him anyway. We expect a full recovery -- that is good news -- and he can continue to play.''

Whether or not Washington continues to plat AT TENNESSEE remains to be seen. Prior to the injury, he made clear that he intended to turn pro following the 2002 season. Now that NFL scouts have doubts because of health concerns, Washington may be forced to return for another year of college to alleviate those doubts.

''I don't think he is giving much thought to coming back here,'' Fulmer said, ''but he is certainly welcome if he chose to return.''


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