Berry's back

With one tackle in last Saturday's scrimmage, Tennessee's finest football player answered a question that has been dogging him for months.

Coming off shoulder injury that limited him to non-contact drills last spring, All-America safety Eric Berry wondered throughout May, June and July how his surgically repaired shoulder would respond to a big hit.

He got his answer on the fourth play of Saturday's scrimmage. Montario Hardesty, the Vols' 215-pound power-running tailback, burst through a gap and appeared headed for a touchdown. Berry saved the TD with a head-on collision that reverberated throughout Neyland Stadium.

The impact did not cause any pain in the shoulder, and that was the best thing that has happened to Berry all summer.

"It felt good," he recalled. "Montario's a big guy but who else would you rather test it against? That's one of the top SEC backs. If it can withstand a run from him, then I think it's good."

Berry's hit on Hardesty wasn't his first of the preseason but it was the first time he really put his shoulder into a full-speed stop and jolted someone.

"When we were in just shoulder pads earlier I kind of tested it out a little," Berry noted, "but I never unloaded and tried to see what was up with it."

He decided Saturday morning to end the suspense in the first preseason scrimmage.

"I was like 'OK, today's the day,'" he said. "I did it, and it felt fine."

Berry went to the sidelines after just one series and spent the rest of the scrimmage watching. He was as shocked as anyone that quarterbacks Jonathan Crompton and Nick Stephens directed three touchdown drives each against a Vol defense that looked surprisingly vulnerable.

So, what must Big Orange defenders do to bounce back in Scrimmage No. 2 this Saturday?

"Just settle down," Berry said. "I think a lot of people were excited to get back on the field. It's been awhile since spring and the season's right around the corner.

"We'll be all right."

Certainly, the chances are a lot better now that Eric Berry's shoulder is all right.


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