Staff Photo by Angela Lewis
UT's Wes Brown tries to rally the crowd during the game against Wyoming at Neyland Stadium.
KNOXVILLE -- Wes Brown planned to enjoy the University of Tennessee football team's Wednesday away from the practice field, but his planned routine sounded nothing like a typical off day.
"I'm going to come in and watch some film, of course," the fifth-year senior defensive lineman said after Tuesday night's practice. "But I'm still going to enjoy the day off. I'm going to lay around and take it easy, for sure.
"But I'll probably spend around three or four hours in the training room."
When one media member politely suggested that two hours of watching film and three or four hours in the training room didn't sound like much of a day off, Brown offered a poignant one-liner.
"That is an off day for us," he said. "Trust me."
Brown has indeed become a trusted player around the UT football complex. His knees are a constant nuisance, and one of them hasn't quite recovered from offseason surgery.
Coaches have grown to trust Brown with regards to his health. The Vols' defensive line is talented but not necessarily deep with proven players, and the team will count on the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Brown to start at tackle and chip in at defensive end -- the position he'd previous played full-time.
Brown said he's pushed himself "hard but too hard" in preseason camp. He recognizes the team will need him for every game this season, but he said the risk of being out-of-shape and unfamiliar with the defense outweigh the risks of further hurting himself in August.
"You have to practice," Brown said. "I mean, I could sit out a practice, but that's not going to make me a better player, and that's not going to make us a better team.
"Right now, I'm feeling pretty good. Of course I'm going to be sore, but overall I can't complain. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at."
Still, coaches and teammates never roll their eyes on the rare occasions Brown says, "Uncle." In fact, head coach Lane Kiffin, defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and trainers force him to the sideline from time to time.
"Sometimes my knee's just so sore that I have to come out for a couple of plays," Brown said. "I'll say something, or Coach O will say, 'Hey, Wes, sit this one out.' But I'm still just trying to be out there as much as I can, for sure."
Orgeron called Brown a "smart, mature" player who effectively communicates with everyone.
"I'd climb in a foxhole with Wes anytime," Orgeron said.
LESS VOLATILE VINSON?
Kiffin said junior cornerback Brent Vinson has started showing signs of the maturity he and the staff demanded in the offseason.
Vinson, widely considered one of the team's best athletes, has been closely monitored off the field by Kiffin and former coach Phillip Fulmer's staff. His off-field problems have scanned a wide spectrum, with most officially being classified as the standard, unspecified "violation of team rules." He has been suspended multiple times, most recently missing last season's loss at South Carolina after a traffic stop resulted in five citations, including marijuana possession and an open-container violation. He also missed last season's first two games with a class-attendance policy violation.
Vinson witnessed an off-campus murder in May, according to Knoxville Police Department incident reports, but he wasn't charged in connection with the case.
Kiffin said he's recently grown "a lot more" comfortable" with Vinson's decision-making.
"I think Brent has done things right," Kiffin said. "He's done better at school. He's done better off the field. He hangs around our office all the time. (Sunday night), he was in the back of my office watching TV.
"For whatever reason, I think he's taken a real liking to us, and so it's good to see and it helps us trust him."
Vinson -- who returned to practice this week after missing time with a hamstring injury -- said he has a "new outlook on life."
"I've been trying to do my part as much as I can," Vinson said. "If I can't control something, then I don't have any control over it, so I try not to worry about it. I've been trying to change my thought process and be a little different as a person, as far as being able to support my teammates and just doing whatever I need to do."