The irony of injury

Some guys make plays. Other guys make excuses. Fortunately for the Tennessee Vols, their ace receiver falls into the former category.

Junior wideout Gerald Jones sustained a broken bone in his left wrist over the summer that required surgery and a hard cast. The preliminary diagnosis indicated he would miss most of preseason drills and perhaps the 2009 opener.

Jones disproved team doctors, however, and showed up for the first preseason workout wearing a soft cast on his left wrist and a big smile on his face. Still, he had some doubts.

"I didn't know how I was going to catch the ball because I hadn't caught a ball (since spring drills) until the first day of practice," he recalled. "I just got in there and did what I could."

Although he has dropped some passes in preseason workouts, Jones refuses to label the cast a hindrance. If anything, he says it's a benefit.

"The cast, even though it slowed me down, actually helped me out a lot with my fundamentals," he said. "Getting used to catching with a cast on helped me with looking the ball in."

Knowing he shouldn't allow the ball to hit the cast forced Jones to focus harder than ever before on catching with his fingers. So, when the cast comes off he says it "should be easier" to catch the ball than it was before he suffered the injury.

Jones played quarterback at Millwood High in Oklahoma City and got some snaps as a shotgun quarterback in Tennessee's so-called "G-Gun package" last fall. He enjoyed considerable success, rushing 23 times for 126 yards and a solid 5.5 yards-per-carry average.

With Jones' wrist in a cast, however, UT coaches have not used the G-Gun this preseason. Instead, they have been working electrifying freshman Nu'Keese Richardson as a shotgun quarterback. That's OK with Jones, who has no plans to request a revival of the G-Gun.

"I think I'll just shut up and play it cool," he said. "I trust every decision these coaches make. I think they make the best decisions for this team. Whether I'm back there or whether it's Nu'Keese back there I'm happy. I'm going to be at wide receiver and I'm going to tear it up out there."

One reason he expects to "tear it up" this year is a new Vol playbook that includes a lot of deep routes.

"Coach Kiffin loves to take shots," Jones said. "He's a receiver-based guy. Believe it or not, we have a lot of deep routes but we also have a lot of possession routes, a lot of shorts routes where we can pick you underneath and a lot of screens.

"We've really got a lot of everything. I've never had this many plays in an offense. It's ridiculous."

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