Earlier this week, an ESPN report alleged that Jeremy Pruitt pressured Tennessee trainers and interfered with their handling of injured and rehabbing athletes. Pruitt responded to the allegations at his Wednesday press conference.

When asked if he had any trainers fired, Pruitt said, “No, absolutely not. The athletic training staff has always reported to the athletic director.”

He was also asked if he’s pressured players to return to the field or interfere with trainers.

“No, if you look at our athletic training staff, starting with Dr. (Christopher) Klenck, he does a phenomenal job… Over the course of the year, we’ve had a lot of guys banged up,” Pruitt said. “Probably had more injuries than most of the years I’ve been coaching. They’ve done a phenomenal job getting these guys well. We’ve had guys miss time this year. Look at what they did with Trey Smith. I think these guys are some of the best in the country.”

The report by Paula Lavigne quoted former Tennessee LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. recalling his experience with practices after the 2017 season, when Pruitt took over following the dismissal of Butch Jones:

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.’”

Lavigne’s full article can be read here.