Notes and observations from the practice field as the Vols returned to work on Monday afternoon:
Short session: We’ll start off by apologizing for the shorter report. With the Vols essentially in game-week mode, Butch Jones is really cracking down on the media access. Only two abbreviated periods were made open to the media on Monday in what will likely be more the norm with the season all but here.
Happy returns: With the exception of Chance Hall’s knee injury, which was announced last week, this team looks pretty close to full health.
The field was even more packed on Monday with the return of running back Carlin Fils-Aime and receiver Brandon Johnson, both of whom missed some time over the past couple weeks. Fils-Aime and Johnson both practiced in green, non-contact uniforms, so it’s difficult to say what their availability will be for the opener.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Jalen Hurd continued to practice in non-contact uniforms as well.
Perhaps the most notable return was safety/kickoff returner Evan Berry, who was back on the field for the first (at least in an open session with the media) time since early in camp. That’s a good sign for the All-American return man who is also competing for playing time in the defensive backfield.
Johnson’s debut: It appears that Alexis Johnson’s return to the team is progressing. He was dressed out on Monday and working with the team. Butch Jones confirmed last week that Johnson was doing some conditioning work, but said he was still working his way back on the team at that time.
Johnson has been indefinitely suspended since February, though recent events, both on the field and off the field, continue to point to him being on this team in 2016. How much, if any, he plays is very much up in the air, and it’s important to remember that he still has his redshirt season available if that’s the route the coaching staff chooses to go.
Up next: Tennessee won’t hold another open practice session until Saturday, but will have some other media availabilities before that point. Tennessee opens its season against Appalachian State next Thursday, Sept. 1, so the typical game-week schedule will look a little different for this year’s opener.
RTI’s Mason Burgin contributed to this report