With five NFL Draft picks this past offseason, Tennessee football appears to be restoring the interest among fans who follow former Vols in the pros. Some of them did provide a show to start 2022 season. However, a significant portion of that hype has already gone out the window due to devastating news for some of them.
Multiple UT players suffered crucial injuries over the weekend in a stroke of just bad fortune. That already limits the pool of former Vols who can make an impact in the pros this year. Still, plenty of players for the Vols showed they could make an impact, and that may only get better.
As we get set to break down Tennessee football’s performance with former players in the first week of the NFL, we’ll break things up based on who the stars were, who saw significant action, who played, and who was on the roster but didn’t play. Let’s start, though, with some devastating injuries that rocked former players.
Sep 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions running back D’Andre Swift (32) runs by Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett (96) during first half action at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier-USA TODAY Sports
Derek Barnett – DE – Philadelphia Eagles
The only first-round draft pick from Rocky Top over the past eight years, Derek Barnett just suffered the second season-ending injury of his career. UT’s all-time sacks leader also went down after six games in 2018. He tore is ACL in the third quarter against the Detroit Lions Sunday.
Ja’Wuan James – OL – Baltimore Ravens
Ironically, Ja’Wuan James was the Vols’ most recent first-round draft pick before Derek Barnett. For the second straight season, he suffered a season-ending injury, and he opted out of 2020, so by 2023, if he comes back, there will have been a four-year gap from any significant action he’s seen. James tore his achilles in the second quarter against the New York Jets
Trey Smith – OL – Kansas City Chiefs
His status is still up in the air, but Tennessee football’s favorite offensive lineman the past decade left the Kansas City Chiefs’ opener in the first quarter with an ankle injury. It’s likely he returns soon enough, but how soon is unclear. KC beat the Arizona Cardinals 44-21.