UT Responds to Allegation that Athlete Played with Concussion

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Chattanooga Times Free Press (Tennessee)


KNOXVILLE — Tennessee football coach Butch Jones said he has "absolutely no say" in decisions regarding whether injured athletes are allowed to continue playing.

During his weekly Wednesday meeting with reporters, Jones was asked several questions about his handling of a situation in last Saturday's 29-26 loss at Kentucky involving offensive tackle Brett Kendrick, who will miss this Saturday's home game against Southern Mississippi, apparently due to an injury.

A Tuesday report from thereadoptional.com, a football blog, cited anonymous sources implying the Tennessee staff allowed Kendrick to play for at least two quarters against the Wildcats while exhibiting concussion-like symptoms.

"I'll tell you this: We would never knowingly put a student-athlete in harm's way," Jones said Wednesday. "Our medical staff has full authority on removing from players from competition but also has the authority to return players to competition."

Tennessee athletic director John Currie also issued a statement on the matter through a Tennessee athletic department spokesperson.

"The health and safety of our student-athletes is our number one responsibility," Currie said. "Our sports medicine staff and team medical personnel have full autonomy and unquestioned authority during all team activities, including the ability to remove a player from competition and 'return to play' decisions. At all football games, the Southeastern Conference has a trained independent medical observer present who also has full authority to stop play and remove a student-athlete from competition for assessment and/or treatment.

"We have a constant and consistently communicated expectation that all coaches, staff and student-athletes remain attentive to ensure that any potential injuries are appropriately addressed--with full intentions that student-athlete safety is never compromised."

Jones also referenced the SEC's use of independent medical observers during games, saying the league has "been very proactive in terms of having an independent medical observer in the press box that looks for these issues."

A copy of the protocol for SEC medical observers was provided to the Times Free Press by a league spokesperson on Wednesday.

It reads: "In the event the medical observer has clear visual evidence (1) that a player displays obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable due to head or neck injury, and (2) it becomes apparent that the player will remain in the game and not be attended to by the team's medical or athletic training staff, then the medical observer shall take the following steps: A. If the player does not receive medical attention, alert the replay officials immediately and identify the player by his team and jersey number. B. Contact the medical staff of the player involved and advise that the player appears to be in need of medical attention and the basis for the stoppage.

Jones said he did not know whether the game's medical observer had been contacted in regards to whether they noticed anything about Kendrick's condition during the game.

"That's up to our medical people and our athletic department," Jones said.

VFL head leaving

The coordinator of the Tennessee athletic department's Vol For Life program is resigning. Tennessee announced Wednesday that Antone Davis is leaving the school to "pursue personal business opportunities."

Davis, a former Tennessee and NFL offensive lineman, had coordinated the VFL program since August 2012. The VFL program conducts outreach and offers support to former players. The phrase "Vol for Life" was popularized under former coach Derek Dooley, who was at Tennessee from 2010 to 2012.

Davis was already coordinating the program when embattled fifth-year coach Butch Jones was hired to replace Dooley in December 2012.

"We appreciate Antone's work for the University of Tennessee and our football program," Currie said in the announcement. "He had an outstanding career here as a student-athlete and then returned more than 20 years later to impact the lives of young men who were following in his footsteps. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Davis played at Tennessee from 1988 to 1990, then played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons during a seven-year NFL career.

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com

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November 2, 2017


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