KNOXVILLE -- Four-plus years of battles with Southeastern Conference offensive linemen have taken a toll on Wes Brown's knees.
Offseason surgery hasn't completely corrected the problems, either. Brown has winced several times through two practices this week, bowing out late in Tuesday's opening workout.
The Tennessee senior isn't about to surrender, though.
"It's been a struggle, but my team deserves it," Brown said. "This is my last year, so I want to get out there and have a good last year. It's going to be tough. I know there's going to be days where I'm going to be more sore than others, but I'm not done yet.
"I'm going to keep playing until the good Lord tells me I can't."
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound, fifth-year senior feels said he like "an old man" at just 22 years old, and UT coach Lane Kiffin doesn't necessarily disagree.
"With Wes, it's one knee gets better, and then the other one gets hurt, and then it goes back-and-forth," Kiffin said. "We'll have to continue to monitor him. He's kind of a like a 12-year (NFL) vet that way. We've really got to make sure we're getting the right stuff out of him and not overworking him."
Brown would rather stay on the field, though, if it's possible.
"If I can't practice, it's not fair to the other guys for me to just come play on Saturdays," said Brown, who is expected to rotate between tackle and end this season. "I've got to practice, and I want to practice, because that's the only thing that's going to get me better. ... There are some instances where I might have to get out of something. But I'm going to be out there as much as I can, because I need to be out there."
All-American safety Eric Berry said he's asked several underclassmen to follow Brown's lead.
Berry's message: "Don't take anything for granted, and at the same time, do anything to be on the field.
"Wes will do anything to be on this field right now," Berry added. "Just seeing some of the pains he's going through, and how slow he gets up after the play, but then the next play starts and he's going 100 miles per hour, that just shows a lot as far as his love for the game.
"You can't do anything but respect that."
Kiffin wasn't nearly as complimentary when asked about the foot injury that has slowed junior wide receiver Brandon Warren this week.
Warren, a Florida State transfer from the Knoxville area, has been a common target of Kiffin's motivational ploys. Kiffin removed the No. 1 from Warren's practice jersey for a few days in spring practice (but Warren, unlike eventual tailback transfer Lennon Creer, earned back his number).
"Brandon ... you know ... it's always something with Brandon," Kiffin said. "We need to try to figure out a way to get Brandon to make it through a practice. We're having a hard time getting through 30 minutes with him, so we'll see."
Warren said the foot initially started hurting this summer, but that he's "95 percent" healthy and doesn't intend to miss any more practice time. Trainers have monitored the injury all week, occasionally during drills.
"I'm just working through it now," Warren said. "I'm fine."
Kiffin clearly grew perturbed during one of Warren's trainer visits, disdainfully looking across the field and yelling, "What happened now?"
Senior offensive guard Vladimir Richard said cramps have caused him to sit out portions of the first two practices. "I just hydrated myself, and I was fine," he said.
Kiffin praised highly touted freshmen tailbacks Bryce Brown and David Oku for making several "big plays" this week, but he wasn't pleased with Brown's two Wednesday fumbles.
Kiffin said none of the five offensive line starting spots were settled yet, but he was pleased with the first unit's run-blocking.
Several players struggled to catch punts and kickoffs Wednesday. At least six consecutive kicks were muffed at one point.