Volunteers coach Butch Jones didn't specify the nature of the injury that knocked Kendrick out of the Kentucky game and will prevent the fifth-year senior from playing this week. Jones did deny a TheReadOptional.com report that indicated Jones' staff allowed Kendrick to continue playing against Kentucky while knowing he had a concussion.
"We would never ever knowingly put a student-athlete in harm's way," Jones said. "Our medical staff has full authority on removing players from competition but also in the return-to-play decisions. I have absolutely no say in those decisions."
The report included video clips that appeared to show Kendrick being slow to react in certain situations. Kendrick left the game with 22 seconds left and wasn't on the field for Tennessee's final four plays from scrimmage.
Jones noted that the Southeastern Conference has an independent medical observer at games to monitor those types of things.
According to SEC policy, all conference games have an independent "qualified medical professional" in the replay booth. If medical observers see clear visual evidence that a player displays obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable due to a head or neck injury and it becomes apparent that the player will remain in the game and not be attended to by the team's medical or training staff, they can contact the team's medical staff or replay officials so that the player can be removed from the field and evaluated.
Tennessee athletic director John Currie issued a statement saying "the health and safety of our student-athletes is our No. 1 responsibility." Currie also noted the presence of an SEC independent medical observer and said Tennessee's sports medicine staff and team medical personnel have "full autonomy" on removing a player from a game or returning him to action.
"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," Currie said.
Kendrick's injury leaves Tennessee extremely thin on the offensive line. Jones also said tackle Marcus Tatum will miss a second straight game and that tackle Drew Richmond is questionable due to unspecified injuries. Richmond and Kendrick were Tennessee's starting tackles against Kentucky, and Tatum has made three starts this year.
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