Dean Haynes had a bit of company for several weeks. He wasn't the only injured University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football player, and he had people to talk to as he sat under the tented training area at Scrappy Moore Field.
Now, with tight end Troy Dye (knee), offensive lineman Devin Caldwell (knee) and other players progressing to conditioning work with strength coach Scott Brincks, Haynes reclines on the training table alone for most of practice Thursday.
"It is pretty boring, but a lot of times I'm watching out there and trying to get mental reps and stuff," Haynes said. "If I'm not going to be physically prepared for the start of the season, I've got to be at least mentally prepared."
The former Northwest Whitfield (Ga.) High School star and North Carolina State transfer has been a spectator at workouts since fracturing a bone his foot during the Mocs' third preseason practice. The injury, called a Jones fracture, which involves the bone on the side of the fifth metatarsal (little toe), required him to have a pin surgically installed.
The safety spent two weeks wearing a cast before it was removed Wednesday.
"It felt really good to get the cast off," Haynes said. "I feel like I'm healing pretty quick."
Perhaps, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been a frustrating start to the junior's UTC career.
"It's extremely frustrating, but everything happens for a reason," he said.
Haynes likely would be competing for the starting free safety job if he'd stayed healthy. Instead, he doesn't know when he'll be back on the field. It definitely won't be before the Sept. 1 season opener at South Florida.
"We're trying to get me out there as soon as possible, without injuring anything," he said. "I'm just playing it by ear."
Dye and Caldwell are coming off offseason knee surgeries and have not practiced. Mocs coach Russ Huesman said Dye should be cleared to play next week, but whether he's ready to is another story.
With a little more than a week remaining before the Mocs face the Bulls, Huesman said he likes the chemistry of his team.
"I like our team and I think they like each other," he said. "But this has been a great place. There's no specific clicks -- there's no black or white, offense versus defense -- it's just a bunch of kids, and I'm conscious to look and see who's eating with who and who's walking with who.
"I see 89 kids that are pretty good kids that like each other."