Teammate: Injured Vol moves fingers

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Territorial Marshal
Jun 11, 2004

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tennessee cornerback Inky Johnson, who has been in the hospital since being hit hard in the Air Force game last Saturday, tried to get up after the play and has been able to move his fingers, a teammate said Wednesday.

Team officials said Johnson, a junior from Atlanta, has a "severe injury to his right upper extremity" and has had surgery to repair blood vessels.

They said he will need surgery for a nerve injury and will miss the rest of the season.

The head athletic trainer, who announced Johnson's condition on Sunday, has not released any other information, including whether Johnson would be able to play football again or how much Johnson was able to move his arm.

Teammate Jonathan Hefney, who is moving from free safety to Johnson's starting position, said he visited Johnson on Monday.

"He was like, 'Look, Hef, I'm moving my hand.' You know, like he was moving his fingers around and his arm was itching. He's got feeling in his arm I'm assuming," Hefney said.

"I pray for him every night hoping that he will be all right. Maybe if he wants to play football again he can come back and play."

Defensive coordinator John Chavis choked up when asked about Johnson on Tuesday and told reporters he'd rather not talk about it.

Johnson was hurt in a collision with Air Force's Justin Handley after a catch. The players were running toward each other along the Falcons' sideline. Handley's helmet appeared to crash into Johnson's right shoulder under his chin as his head was turned. Johnson immediately fell limp. Medical personnel strapped Johnson to a board and took him away in an ambulance to University of Tennessee Medical Center.

"I was running directly over there when he hit the guy. I was like, 'Ink, come on let's get up.' I knew something was wrong because he never says 'I'm just going to lay down,"' Hefney said. "They told him just to stay down because he tried. I seen him lift his head up trying to get up anyway."

"As much as me and him talk and be around each other, to see him laying down on the field was like your brother or something getting shot or something. It like scared me to see him down on the field."

Johnson played on offense and defense at Crim High School in Atlanta. According to UT's media guide, Johnson broke his collarbone in the first game of his junior season. It doesn't say which collarbone. The collarbone covers a system of nerves that runs from the neck down the arm.

"He told me he's blessed to have the things he's got right now because he could be not walking, he could not be talking, he couldn't see. He tells me he's blessed and he told me he wants us to go out there and play ball. It don't even got to be for him, just to do it for ourselves," Hefney said.

"I'm going out to play for him even if he don't want me to," he said. "I'm going out there to play for him and the team, as well."

The No. 13 Volunteers host seventh-ranked Florida on Saturday.