Testy Jones: Media Negativity "Sometimes Overwhelming"

Question Concerning Tuttle's Injury Ignites Vols Coach

Monday, September 25, 2017 - by Larry Fleming

Things got testy toward the end of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones’ weekly Monday press conference.

Early in the “presser,” Jones suggested the media was too interested in drama surrounding his program when he answered a question pertaining to why injured wide receiver Jauan Jennings, who is out for the season, hadn’t been on the sideline in any of the three games he’s missed.

Jones said Jennings is an extremely competitive player, adding, “It absolutely bothers him being on the sideline because he feels he can’t help the football team.”

With  the final question of the media session, Jones was asked: “Was Shy Tuttle’s injury related to a teammate causing him to be injured?” The injury was severe enough to keep Tuttle out of Saturday’s narrow win against UMass.

Jones used the next two-plus minutes to answer the question and close the press conference, which was streamed live on the internet.

“Football is an emotional game. It is a competitive game. The injury was not caused by a teammate. He landed on a helmet and that’s the truth. I think we have to understand, what do we want out of our media?

“This place, with the drama. And, again, these are kids and I think we all have children and we’re all adults. And it’s, are we focused on Tennessee football from a recruiting standpoint, from all the positive things we’ve done, from all the positive things this football program brings to the community, this great fan base, or are we in the reality world of TV?”

Jones, still seething, continued his bluster.

“And I think all of us as human beings have to self-check ourselves and you may not like that answer, but I’m a father. I have three boys, and I think we sometimes have got to put ourselves in the role of a parent as well. And I understand we all have jobs to do. My expectations as a head football coach; I’m the caretaker of Tennessee football. I’m here to develop and grow a football program, recruit the best possible student-athletes to represent the University of Tennessee and win football games and graduate our players. That’s my responsibility and I take it very seriously.

“I’m going to protect our players and our program. And sometimes the negativity is overwhelming. If everyone is Vol fans, how do we let our opponents use this in the recruiting process with fake news?

“What are we here for? What (are) our values and principles that guide our life every day? I appreciate everyone in this room. You guys have a job to do and I’m respectful of that. I’m friends with a lot of you guys. But, there comes a certain time where enough is enough.

“So thank you. You guys have a great day and I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday. Go Vols.”

Jones’ bombast wasn’t as extreme as Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s hair-raising response to a question about one of his players several years ago. However, the way Jones went off at reporters and what their roles are in covering the Vols showed the heat of losing to Florida on a last-second Hail Mary and a lackluster effort in edging the 28-point underdog Minutemen might be getting under the coach’s skin.

Also, Tennessee (3-1) is now gearing up for what could be its toughest challenge to date when No. 7 Georgia comes to Knoxville on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. contest that will be televised by CBS.

While the Vols were slipping past UMass, the Bulldogs trounced nationally ranked Mississippi State 31-13 in an impressive performance that moved them up four spots in the AP Top 25 poll.

Ironically, Tennessee defeated Georgia 34-31 on quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ final-play Hail Mary pass that Jennings caught while leaping between several Bulldog defenders in the end zone.

This year, however, the Bulldogs have been much more impressive in beating Appalachian State (31-10), Notre Dame (20-19) and Mississippi State.

The Vols got past Georgia Tech 42-41 in double overtime and Indiana State (42-7) before losing at The Swamp in Gainesville, Florida.

Jones called the poor showing against UMass “unacceptable” and the coaches were coming back to work Saturday night to correct mistakes and begin preparation for Georgia.

Fifth-year seniors Kendal Vickers and Brett Kendrick are well aware of the challenge Georgia presents.

“I have a lot of respect for Georgia,” said Kendrick an offensive tackle. “They have a really athletic front and their interior guys are big and strong. The linebackers run well, just like any other SEC team. The front seven will be a challenge and it’s something we have to step up and take care of.”

With 300-pound Jashon Roberts sidelined with an injury against UMass, the Vols were held to a season-low 135-yards rushing.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are explosive and possess the ability to punish defenses with a hard-charging running game.

Nick Chubb averages 92.8 yards per game, Sony Michel 64 and D’Andre Swift 49.

“They’ve got really great players in the backfield,” said Vickers, a defensive tackle. “They have a freshman quarterback (Jeff Fromm) who has been making a lot of plays. They have guys on the outside, so we have to come ready to take the task because they’re a good team.”

Another Checkerboard Fan Turnout

For the fourth straight season the fan-led initiative Checker Neyland will take play at the Georgia game. Fans are encouraged to wear white or orange, depending on their seat location.

Manning To Be Honored

Former all-America quarterback Peyton Manning will be honored at halftime in an official “on-campus salute” for his selection to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Manning has requested that he be accompanied on the field by UT’s living CFHF players and the pregame Vol walk.  

(Contact Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)

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