KNOXVILLE - Tyler Bray's original rehabilitation plan didn't include any surgery on his broken right thumb.
That changed Monday when Tennessee's sophomore quarterback had a plate put into the thumb on his throwing hand. Bray broke it more than a week ago when his hand hit a Georgia linebacker's helmet late in the fourth quarter of the Volunteers' loss.
"What they're doing is they're putting a plate in," coach Derek Dooley said at his weekly news conference Monday. "In fact, today, which was not unexpected. It doesn't really delay anything but they have to let the swelling go down and the plate is in only so the bone doesn't grow, it doesn't heal crooked if that makes sense. They're doing that right now. They should be done with it."
Bray's original timetable keeps him out for up to six weeks, and that won't change despite today's procedure. Receiver Gerald Jones had a similar procedure done last season when he missed three games.
"The plate's only to help the healing," Dooley said. "The scar tissue heals but it can move. If it moves and then it heals, then you've got a crooked thumb. We certainly don't want that with our quarterback."
Tennessee follows up Saturday's 38-7 home loss to No. 1 LSU with a trip to second-ranked Alabama (7:15 p.m., ESPN2). The Vols have lost four straight in the series, and it will be Dooley's second game against Nick Saban, his former boss at LSU and the NFL's Miami Dolphins.
"This is Nick's fifth year, it's his best team," Dooley said. "Probably as physically a dominating a defense as I've seen in the modern era of football. I know that's a strong statement but i believe it. You catch yourself watching them and not studying them."
STUCK IN A CORNER
Tennessee's cornerbacks have been victimized the last two games. Georgia had success throwing over the top, and LSU did its damage with short passes and catch-and-run plays. In both of those games, UT's defense focused on stopping the run and left their cornerbacks on an island.
Izauea Lanier and Marsalis Teague have started the last three games, but freshman Brian Randolph played at free safety in the second half, which kicked Prentiss Waggner down to corner, where the 185-pound junior fits the best.
"Well, we may not have a choice but to do that," Dooley said. "We need to play better at the corner position. We need to play better. So we're going to keep moving it around. We put Prentiss out there in the game and he does some things a lot better. But then there's other things. It's getting a lot of snaps. Brian's got to handle the load at safety."
For more coverage from Monday's news conference, check out the Times Free Press Tuesday and throughout the week. You can also follow me on Twitter.