Ritzmann itching to get going

Constantin Ritzmann would rather be hitting than sitting.

But, after suffering a torn ACL last August that caused him to miss Tennessee's entire 2002 football season, the Vols' senior defensive end must continue cooling his heels until Vol trainers are sure he's ready.

Asked what has been the hardest part of the recovery process, he answered without hesitation.

''Patience probably,'' he said. ''It feels pretty good, pretty fast, but you just can't do things you did before. Right now it is not where I want it to be, but Ill get there.''

Ritzmann is unlikely to see even limited action in spring practice, although he says his knee is ''80 to 85 percent'' healed.

''You got to leave it up to the trainers,'' he said. ''I want to do a lot more than they want me to do. I trust in them, and they have seen a lot of those injuries, so I just plan on doing what they tell me to do.''

Ritzmann weighed 255 pounds at the time of his injury. He has put on 13 pounds since them, now checking in at 268. Still, he says the rehabilitation process has kept him active.

''I've done a lot of running,'' he said. ''I was out for like six weeks, and once that was over I was just trying to get back in shape ... get some cutting ability back. I did a lot of runnning in the Aquasizer ... everything that is out there to get you back from an ACL injury that Tennessee has. I just did everything I could to get back.''

With Ritzmann continuing to recover, Tennessee will spend the spring watching for signs of progress from its younger ends -- junior Karlton Neal, plus sophomores Pary s Haralson, J.T. Mapu and Jason Hall.

''They're young but I think we have a lot of talent,'' Ritzmann said of the outlook at end. ''I am confident in my ability. I think Karlton Neal and Parys Haralson are great talented players. They will do a great job. The young guys at defensive tackle will be all right, too.''

Although watching from the sidelines as the Vols limped through an 8-5 season without him last fall, Ritzmann figures he benefited from that experience.

''It was rough,'' he said. ''It makes you appreciate the whole thing more when you're sitting. You see when you walk out onto the stadium in shorts and not your uniform, it puts it in a new perspective.''

Inside Tennessee Top Stories