KNOXVILLE - The Tennessee football team's return to the practice field Tuesday didn't go so well.
"It was pretty bad today," left tackle Dallas Thomas admitted.
Apparently it was bad enough that coach Derek Dooley used all of his words in a passionate, profanity-laced post-practice speech. For the first time since taking over UT's program, the Volunteers' second-year coach didn't meet with the local media during a time specified for him to do so.
Dooley lit into his team after practice with high enough of a volume that the media standing outside the practice field heard it.
Ten UT players did meet with reporters, however.
"We didn't practice very well today," quarterback Tyler Bray said. "It still looks like some guys are still a little shaken from the Florida game and weren't mentally there. I wouldn't say hangover, I would say beat up. It was a tough, physical game and guys are still a little sore.
"We just need to come out tomorrow with a little more energy."
The Vols will practice today and Thursday before taking off the weekend of their open date. UT will host Buffalo on Oct. 1 at Neyland Stadium before it enters a brutal October stretch with Georgia, No. 2-ranked LSU, third-ranked Alabama and 12th-ranked South Carolina.
Tuesday was the first practice without star receiver Justin Hunter, who is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The Vols have to move on, though, and Dooley prefers to treat his off-week practices like training camp.
"We didn't do nothing that Coach Dooley had set out for us to do," Thomas said, "but we've got to come out tomorrow and do way better than we did today.
"I don't know [why]. Sometimes you've got to ask yourself, 'Was your mind in the right state of mind to come out here and get better, or was it just to come out and lollygag just to get through it?' I think some of our guys probably [were] like that."
Redshirt freshman Matt Darr now will be UT's full-time punter after splitting time with Michael Palardy through the first three games. Palardy, who handles field goals and kickoffs, had one punt blocked and another nearly returned against Florida.
Darr averaged 44 yards on three punts against the Gators, and his net average in the game would have been higher had Anthony Anderson downed one before it went into the end zone for a touchback and the Vols not committed a 15-yard facemask penalty on another.
"I was a little nervous going out there for the first punt, but I felt that I got pretty comfortable after that and hit off two good punts," Darr said. "I've been trying to take ownership of the position, and now that I've got a good game under my belt and feel confident, I'm just ready to get rolling with the season and carry that for us."
Anybody but him
Already without Hunter, UT can ill afford to lose Da'Rick Rogers, the other half of the Vols' talented tandem of sophomore receivers. Rogers was limited some Tuesday. He looked like he was beat up from Saturday and wore a sleeve on his lower left leg.
"Just a little bruise," he said. "I'll be back out there tomorrow ready to go."
The Vols removed Rogers from returning kickoffs after Hunter got hurt.