ESPN report claims Jeremy Pruitt pressured former Tennessee trainers on handling of players
Former Tennessee linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. has revealed new details about a knee injury he suffered during the 2017 season and how it impacted his long-term future in football.
Kirkland was rehabbing when former Vols head coach Butch Jones was fired, and new head coach Jeremy Pruitt took over in December of that year. At that point, the new staff picked things up in practices, which left Kirkland “very uncomfortable” with how quickly he was getting back into it, according to a report by ESPN’s Paula Lavigne.
Because of that, Kirkland felt like it impacted his future.
“If I had more time for my knee, I feel like I would’ve been healthier long term, you know,” Kirkland said, according to Lavigne. “Probably would’ve healed up. Probably would’ve still been playing ball, honestly.”
Kirkland doesn’t blame Pruitt for the situation, and he understood what the athletic trainers were going through.
“It’s a huge challenge because you have your player patient care that you’re trying to combat. But they also have a greater job that you’re trying to focus on a program, winning games,” Kirkland said. “It’s definitely just a lot more than just saying, ‘That guy is healthy,’ or, ‘He’s feeling OK and he can do whatever.'”
According to Lavigne’s report, former employees of Tennessee’s sports medicine staff that Pruitt tried to pressure trainers and interfere with how that staff managed athletes. They said he would tell them to hold off immediately tending to injured players.
“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 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.”
This report is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how situations like this develop.