A report from ESPN this week suggested that Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt chastised athletic trainers for tending to injured football players too quickly during the spring of 2018.
The allegations arose from anonymous accounts from former Tennessee employees.
Here’s an excerpt from ESPN’s report:
Former employees with Tennessee’s sports medicine staff told Outside the Lines that in those first months, Pruitt tried to pressure athletic trainers and interfere with how sports medicine staff managed injured athletes. They said he would yell at them to hold off on immediately tending to fallen athletes.
“He wanted us to wait until he decided it was OK. He thought that the players were too soft and sometimes they needed a second to get up and shake it off. But that’s not his decision to make,” one former employee said. “Jeremy [Pruitt] had enough juice behind him to where if he really wanted to, he could get things his way. If you invest this much money in a coach, that’s their guy.”
Pruitt was asked about the report on Wednesday during his weekly press conference.
The second year head coach told reporters that his athletic staff “has always reported to the athletic director”. When Pruitt was asked if he’s ever asked an athletic trainer to resign, he responded “absolutely not”.
Injuries and how they’re handled are obviously extremely important. This isn’t the “old days” where coaches would implore players to play through injuries. Everything has to be addressed in a proper way.
And I think that’s what Pruitt is doing at Tennessee. His handling of offensive lineman Trey Smith is a perfect example.
Smith, the nation’s top 2017 recruit, was diagnosed with blood clots in early 2018. It was unclear if he would be able to play football in 2019 after playing in only seven games in 2018. Pruitt said throughout the process that the decision to play would be completely up to Smith and his family, noting that football was secondary.
Here’s the statement that Pruitt released just before the start of the 2019 season.
This is Trey’s decision, and our medical staff has done a great job throughout this entire process. The main priority has been and always will be Trey’s health. Our doctors have implemented a plan that will allow Trey to play, and we are excited for him.
The practice plan for Smith has essentially meant minimal full contact until game day.
Throughout the entire process it’s been abundantly clear that Smith’s health has come first for Pruitt and his staff.
The way that Pruitt has handled Smith’s situation should give fans a lot of confidence in Tennessee’s head coach that he’s acting professionally when it comes to the health of his players.
That’s not to say that Pruitt is or has been perfect. We don’t know everything that happens behind the scenes. But I don’t think there’s any cause for concern.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports