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Martin out with serious virus

By Mike Griffith, News-Sentinel sportswriter
December 28, 1999

TEMPE, Ariz. - Tennessee opened practice with backup quarterback Joey Mathews under center and Tee Martin under the covers.

Martin, who is 22-2 as the Vols' starting quarterback, was quarantined in his hotel room Monday after contracting a virus in Mobile over Christmas break.

Martin didn't attend the two-hour practice at Mountain Pointe High School and is not expected to practice today as UT continues its preparation for Sunday night's (8 p.m., ABC) Fiesta Bowl.

"I'm very concerned about it," UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. "It's a pretty significant viral infection. I hope it's over in a couple days.

"We don't need to get him back out here too quick and drag him back down," Fulmer said. "A lot depends on how he responds to the medication."

Martin's mother is also stricken with the illness and has been hospitalized, and an uncle and brother-in-law are still being treated.

"We thought it might just be food poisoning," UT doctor Val Gene Iven said, "but when we checked with people in Mobile, we determined that it was virus related."

Martin missed the final two days of practice in Knoxville. The Vols practiced indoors on Dec. 21 due to inclement weather, and Martin, nursing a tender ankle, rested rather than play on the astroturf. Fulmer excused Martin from the Vols' Dec. 22 workout so he could take care of family business.

Mathews, who played in eight games and completed 3-of-7 passes for 47 yards with an interception, said he's fine with the game plan.

"I don't think they'd have to reduce much of the offense at all," said Mathews, a redshirt freshman from Sevierville. "I know all the plays, I'm familiar with the system, and I've gotten used to the tempo."

Fulmer said Martin's absence will not affect the Vols' practice schedule.

"We'll go right on about our business," Fulmer said. "There are 10 other people that are a part of the plan."

WEARY UPGRADED: Fulmer said Fred Weary is probable for Sunday's game after watching the sophomore left guard take the majority of repetitions in Monday's practice.

Weary suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the Vols' regular-season finale against Vanderbilt Nov. 27.

LATE SESSIONS: Backup outside linebacker Anthony Sessions did not arrive in Tempe Sunday night and spent most of Monday stuck in the St. Louis airport, Fulmer said.

Freshman Eddie Moore worked in Sessions' place on the second team defense behind starter Eric Westmoreland.

Fulmer said Sessions wouldn't face any disciplinary action.

"He couldn't help what happened to him," Fulmer said. "He got bumped from two flights."

LAST GAME: Linebacker Raynoch Thompson and defensive end Shaun Ellis might not have decided to leave UT, but they certainly aren't settled on staying.

Both Thompson and Ellis have filled out the paperwork to play in the Senior Bowl and will likely be playing in their last game Sunday.

Both players will talk with Fulmer after Sunday's game.

HENRY WILL START: Fulmer announced junior tailback Travis Henry will start Sunday's game and Jamal Lewis will rotate in.

"Travis earned the playing time he's gotten and the start," Lewis said. "It's not like I'm not going to play, Travis is just going to start."

MONEY MATTERS: UT athletic director Doug Dickey said the Vols' inability to sell tickets shouldn't cost the school too much money because the bowl payout is a little bit more.

Dickey said he budgeted $600,000 from last year's bowl game and UT cleared $350,000 more than that.

Dickey said he believes the lack of Vols' fans in Fiesta could be attributed to Y2K travel concerns.

"But we've got about 5,000 or 6,000 people that would go anywhere to see us play Po-Dunk U in Hell," he said.

Dickey said UT brought about 680 people to the bowl game, including 330 band members. He said it cost $2 million just to play in the bowl game.

RATTAY SIGNS: John Rattay was expected to send in his official scholarship papers Monday. Rattay, of Phoenix Desert Vista High School, will enroll at UT and begin classes Jan. 12.

Rattay lives one block from where the Vols are practicing, but recruits are not allowed to attend practice as per a new NCAA rule.

IMPENDING RAISE: Dickey said he and Fulmer have started talking about the head coach's contract extension.

"The arrangements need to be

compatible between the head

coach and the institution," Dickey


Fulmer currently makes $1.1

million per year, but will likely get

an increase in salary after LSU

recently hired Nick Saban for

$1.25 million per year.

"We're aware of that," Dickey


QUOTABLE: Asked how it

felt to be in Phoenix amid the 70-

degree temperatures preparing for

the Fiesta Bowl, Ellis said: "It

feels good, but it would feel better

if we were at the Sugar Bowl."

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