published Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

UT's Brown lets Pugh off hook

Senior defensive lineman accepts Auburn's explanation that the chop block was unintentional.


by Wes Rucker
Audio clip

Wes Brown

KNOXVILLE -- Tennessee senior defensive lineman Wes Brown on Monday night maintained his public stance that Auburn's Ryan Pugh inadvertently chop-blocked him 48 hours earlier in Neyland Stadium.

Pugh, who has been whistled multiple times for 15-yard chopping penalties, dived at Brown's knees in the first quarter while the Volunteer was engaged with another Auburn linemen.

"I felt like I saw my career kind of flash before my eyes or something," Brown said. "I was scared there for a minute."

Brown hobbled to the sideline but returned later in the game. The firth-year senior also, for the first time teammates could recall, shared combative words with an opponent -- and nearly entered Auburn's sideline huddle during a timeout to do it.

"He's normally a pretty level-headed, mellow guy," fellow fifth-year senior defender Rico McCoy said. "But when you start messing with a guy's season -- and his last season, at that -- he's going to come back at you."

After the fact, Brown chuckled and said his words were simply a request for "clarification."

"When I was running off the field -- or limping off the field, I guess you could say -- I was pretty ticked off," Brown said. "I'm a competitor, just like all of our guys, and all of Auburn's guys. And when it happened, I was just pretty upset. I didn't know if I'd play another snap the rest of the game, or the rest of the season, because it hurt like crazy.

"When I came back on the field and talked to those guys, their whole line said, 'He didn't mean to do it.' We talked it out. When I saw it on the field today, I was like ... well ... I was like, 'Dadgum, that hurt.' I'm blessed to be out here running around again."

Brown has had well-documented knee problems. Several UT fans, players and coaches were up in arms as soon as replays were shown on Neyland's video board.

"I thought the referees did a good job of picking it up," Vols coach Lane Kiffin said. "Sometimes that stuff gets missed. It's unfortunate, especially who it happened to, because I think it's very, very common knowledge that Wes has had a lot of knee issues, and a lot of injuries."

Kiffin and Brown stopped short of calling the play intentional, though, despite being asked about Auburn's (and Pugh's) recent history with chop-blocking -- something the Tigers have been flagged for several times and accused of on other occasions.

"Every game stands for itself," Brown said. "People are going to get cut. People are going to get chop-blocked. You can't sit there and whine and complain and say, 'Why me?' It's going to happen to everybody at some point.

"This is the game we signed up for, and this is just something that happens in the game."

Kiffin declined to say whether he'd support a Southeastern Conference or NCAA decision to suspend frequent chop-block offenders. NFL players are fined for such hits.

"That's not really my position," Kiffin said. "We're 2-3. We've got a lot of issues of how to get better, and what the league does about something like that is way down on my list."

Lincoln hurt again

Kiffin said UT junior kicker Daniel Lincoln strained a quadriceps muscle last week and didn't kick in practice leading up to the Auburn game.

That could explain why Lincoln, who had started rediscovering his 2007 All-America form, missed so badly from 41 yards and had an extra-point blocked against the Tigers.

"It's not an excuse, but it's a factor," Kiffin said. "He didn't kick all week because of it. We've seen again guys not being able to practice during the week not play as well ... and now we're seen that with our kicker.

"We thought about going in a different direction. During the week, we still kicked with our team, and our backup kicker (punter Chad Cunningham) did not perform very well in that situation -- so at that time, it seemed better. And I would still do the same thing. I would still go with him again."

Kiffin said Lincoln's health was the biggest reason he tried lining up for a two-point conversion after UT's meaningless, game-ending touchdown.

"There was no time, so you couldn't win the game, so I would have just went for two to work on it, instead of going out there and kicking with a kicker again who has a quad issue," Kiffin said. "That would have made no sense to me."

Other contacts for Wes Rucker at wrucker@timesfreepress.com and www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat.

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