Accountability's the key

HOOVER, Ala. - No Tennessee football players were injured in the July 9 fight at Bar Knoxville that resulted in multiple arrests but their actions left the entire program with a black eye. That's why everyone on the team is being held accountable.

Admitting he was "really shocked" that several teammates were detained by police in connection with the July 9 incident, senior defensive end Chris Walker feels compelled to avert such mishaps in the future.

"Definitely," he said. "I think our leadership is going to step up because we don't want to embarrass our university like we did."

You'll notice he said "like WE did," even though he was not present at the July 9 incident. That reflects Head Coach Derek Dooley's policy that all players are responsible for team discipline.

"I blame (senior linebacker) Nick Reveiz as much as the guys who made the bad decisions out there," Dooley said during Friday's SEC Media Days. "When you have good players on the team, those players set the tone in the locker room. Because you represent this place well, it's your responsibility to make sure everybody does."

Safety Darren Myles Jr. already has been dismissed and two more players – defensive tackle Marlon Walls and linebacker Greg King – are indefinitely suspended. Fans are anxious to see if further disciplinary action is forthcoming.

Walker is anxious, too, especially since two of the players awaiting judgment, sophomore tackles Walls and Montori Hughes, are projected to join him in the first-team defensive line. And two more D-tackles, junior college transfer John Brown and senior Chase Nelson, may be facing legal and/or team discipline.

Clearly, a negative resolution of the legal matter could wipe out Tennessee's depth at defensive tackle. Thus, Walker is hoping for a positive resolution that will allow all four tackles to play this fall.

"Man, I hope so," he said, smiling broadly. "If they don't come back we just have to go ahead and go without 'em. They're great players but we'll have to deal with what we have in-house, and I think we'll be fine."

The dismissal of Myles, the No. 1 strong safety, shook up Tennessee's secondary outlook. It shook up Walker, too.

"It kind of hurts you because you've built relationships with those guys," he said. "You never want to see one of your brothers kicked off the team. It's kind of hard for us."

Just hearing that several teammates were involved in an altercation at 1:50 a.m. at a Knoxville bar was a sobering experience for Walker.

"I was really shocked because I didn't hear anything about it," he said. "But it was young kids making young mistakes. I think it's been a wakeup call for the young guys on the team, as well as the older guys."

Several of the "older guys" remain upset about the July 9 mishap.

"We can all tell you it was a very embarrassing moment for us," Walker said. "We made mistakes but we've corrected them and we're looking forward to moving on."

Senior tight end Luke Stocker offered similar thoughts.

"There's nothing right about what happened," he said. "We know that we can't go on like that, especially in the position we're in. We just take that, grow from it and learn from it. Hopefully, that should never happen again."

Dooley, who implemented a "Vol For Life" program to help build character, was understandably upset to face a disciplinary matter six months into his UT tenure.

"He was really embarrassed for our program and the people who support us," Walker said. "He's still embarrassed, as we are, too."

Dooley was so embarrassed, in fact, that he has declared several Knoxville night spots off limits to UT players, including Bar Knoxville.

"There are some places we can't go anymore," Walker said, "and I think that's good for us."

Wherever the Vols go, however, they risk encountering combative guys looking for a fight. Walker learned how to deal with this situation years ago.

"Just walk away," he said. "It doesn't faze me. I'm not going to jeopardize something I have that's a great opportunity for me because somebody's walking around wanting to be macho."

It's too bad his Vol teammates passed on that approach the morning of July 9. Because they did, Tennessee's image is tarnished … at least for now.

As Walker so succinctly put it: "We're going to have to work to get that image back to where people can look at Tennessee football and say ‘Those are really good guys.' "

Although the July 9 mishap generated a lot of negative publicity, Walker said the incident "has not been a big distraction for us," adding: "We know we've made mistakes and had to take care of them in-house. I think that's brought our team closer together and made us work harder."

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