Vols' Harrell puts surgery on hold, will play vs. Gators

Updated: September 13, 2006, 9:33 PM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

How much does Saturday's game against No. 7 Florida mean to Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell?

So much that the potential NFL first-round draft choice postponed surgery on his torn left biceps Wednesday so he can play against the Gators in a key SEC showdown at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

"It's Florida week," Tennesee coach Phillip Fulmer said in a release. "Whatever it takes."

Fulmer told reporters in Knoxville, Tenn., that Harrell will definitely have surgery next week and won't play in any of the No. 13 Volunteers' remaining nine regular-season games.

"We conferred with the doctors and there is no chance for further injury to his arm if he's padded up well," Fulmer said. "He practiced today and did just about everything there was to do.

"I don't know whether he'll get five snaps or 50 snaps, but he's going to be able to play in this football game," Fulmer said. "And this is a one-game deal. He has to have the surgery because if it goes longer than a couple of weeks, the muscle starts to atrophy."

Harrell, an All-SEC pick with 7½ sacks last season, was declared out for the rest of the season by the school on Sunday. He was injured in the Volunteers' 31-30 victory over Air Force last week. But after doctors assured Harrell that he could do no further damage to his arm by playing against the Gators, Harrell persuaded Fulmer to let him play against the Gators.

Harrell, the Volunteers' best defensive lineman and pass rusher, participated in parts of the team's practice on Wednesday.

Cornerback Inquoris "Inky" Johnson, who underwent surgery to repair vascular and nerve damage in his right shoulder, was released from a Knoxville hospital on Wednesday. Johnson is scheduled to have surgery to repair the nerve damage at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Also, the Volunteers might be without starting tailback Arian Foster, who has been bothered by a sprained ankle, when they play the Gators. If Foster can't play, he would be replaced by Montario Hardesty, who ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

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