KNOXVILLE — Tennessee football coach Derek Dooley was displeased with the Volunteers’ practice Tuesday afternoon at Haslam Field.
“Just a little disappointed in the mental intensity today, coming out,” Dooley said. “I always say the results don’t define who you are, but what does define who you are is your approach to work, what your attitude every day is and what kind of mental energy you bring to your job. And that wasn’t good today, so I was real disappointed.
“We’ve been practicing good all year. We haven’t really been up and down in practice for the most part. We’ve been pretty consistent in our work and in our approach, and today we weren’t. It’s not the first time the team hasn’t had a good practice, but I hope we respond a little bit better tomorrow.”
Dooley said he wasn’t sure why the team practiced poorly.
“Well, you always have different reasons,” he said. “Some guys are sore, and I’m saying hypothetically on a given team, some guys get the ‘poor mes’ — ‘Poor me, I’m not playing. Poor me, we’re not winning. Poor me, the coaches are on me. Poor me, I’ve got class, study hall; nobody really cares about that.’
“Some guys just, mentally, choose not to bring it. Sometimes that happens. There’s a lot of reasons.”
Mild soreness isn’t an acceptable excuse either, he added.
“Everybody in the country is sore,” he said. “It’s just a choice you make every day when you wake up — ‘I’ve got a headache.’ I think there were a couple of people in our organization who didn’t come to work Monday because they were sick. Are you kidding me? You shouldn’t be sick on a Monday, right?
“Nobody gets sick on a Monday. Unless you aren’t sick.”
Dooley clarified that poor practices happen “on every team at some point,” and that all people in all professions feel sorry for themselves at times.
But, he added, he’s “not allowing it” in the UT football program.
“That’s number one, and that’s what I told the team,” he said. “There’s certain values in the organization that will never get compromised and will never go unnoticed, and one of those is how you approach your work every day — the attitude you approach it with, the mental intensity you approach it with, and the toughness you approach it with. And when that isn’t to our standard, it needs to get confronted and talked about. That’s why I say, ‘I don’t get married to the results. I get married to the effort every day, and that’s what defines you.’”
“It’s human nature not to be able to wake up every day and bring your best. So how do you do it? When you’re not feeling right, you demand it out of you. And you push yourself through it when it’s hard, and then it becomes what you do. There is no other option. It doesn’t matter if your hurting — ‘I’m sick, I’ve got the flu, I’ve got the swine flu.’ It doesn’t matter.
“You work and you go to work and you put it all in every day, and it either becomes a part of who you are or you’re not that way, and there’s no in between. There really isn’t. You either bring it every day or you don’t. And if you don’t know how to bring it every day, you’ve got to teach yourself how to bring it. Nobody is born to bring it every day — nobody. I wasn’t. You have to train your mind, and your body will follow. And there is no other option.
“When you have no options, you do it.”
Senior offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw mostly agreed with his coach.
“I don’t think everybody came out with the right mental state,” Shaw said. “We didn’t have any energy. He felt the guys were just being casual out here. He wanted us to take a step forward as a team today, and I feel like we didn’t get that accomplished because we didn’t have the right mental state out here.
“Coach Dooley said he felt like it was one of the worst practices we’ve had. I think ... I don’t know. I feel like we did a pretty good job on the offensive line. I thought we had one our better days.”
This and that
Starting quarterback Matt Simms confirmed that he sprained his left knee against Alabama but said he would play Saturday at South Carolina. He’s been in the training room every day at 6:30 a.m., and he practiced Tuesday after missing nearly all of Monday’s work.
Sophomore safety Prentiss Waggner worked some at cornerback Tuesday to give the Vols “better coverage options,” Dooley said. “But what I don’t want to do is rob Peter to pay Paul.”
Dooley said senior kicker Daniel Lincoln didn’t practice Tuesday, so true freshman Michael Palardy would probably start at South Carolina.
Contact Wes Rucker at email@example.com or 865-851-9739. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/wesrucker or Facebook at www.facebook.com/tfpvolsbeat