After a near four-month suspension, Tennessee wide receiver Von Pearson was reinstated to the team as of Friday afternoon, but wasn’t on the practice field when the Vols took the field at 3:25 p.m. ET. His return to the practice field, however, will have to wait one more day.
“He’ll begin practice tomorrow [Saturday] with the team, and he’ll undergo the five-practice acclimation period that’s required by the NCAA,” coach Butch Jones confirmed.
That means two practices in just a helmet, two in shoulder pads and a helmet and a return to full pads most likely on Wed., Aug. 12 during the 1:00 p.m. practice session scheduled that day.
Pearson was named a suspect in an alleged sexual assault on April 24 of this year and was suspended indefinitely from both the team and the school shortly after. The Knox County District Attorney announced that no charges would be brought against him on Wednesday, and once some hurdles were cleared at the University level, Pearson was reinstated. Jones said that privacy laws prevented him from expounding too much on the situation, but he did make a few additional comments.
“We sat down and Von’s had a lot of conversations with us and there’s a standard and an expectation,” Jones said following UT’s Friday afternoon practice when asked about Pearson’s reaction to the news of his reinstatement. “And before tomorrow, we’ll have many more conversations, and that’s privileged information between our administration, myself and him.”
But perhaps Jones’ biggest message was that nothing will be a given for Pearson once he does return to the practice field. Despite battling an ankle injury that cost him three full games in 2014, Pearson, now a senior, still managed to finish second on the team in both receptions (35) and yardage (393), while leading the team with five touchdown receptions last season.
“Von’s got a long way to go,” Jones said. “He’s just a small piece of our football team, and he’s going to have to work his way back in football shape and he’s going to have to earn playing time. There is no entitlement in our football program. Before he’s ready to go on the field, he’s going to have to earn it because we have some players doing some very good things. Jauan Jennings continues to learn the nuances of playing receiver, the receiver conditioning that’s expected, the mental toughness, so we have some individuals – Josh Malone is doing a very, very, very good job.”
The Vols return to the practice field Saturday at 3:50 p.m. ET.