The Vols returned to the practice field on Monday with one goal in mind: creating a tough and gritty mentality, something that was missing from the team last year.
    
“With every great player, every great team and every great organization, you have to define a standard of what you believe in and what you want to look like,” UT head coach Derek Dooley said. “Every day, it’s going to get challenged to see if you are really committed to it. You have to exercise a level of grit in ability to persist in the face of difficulty. You also need some leadership around you to affect others in a positive way.”
   
 For Dooley, one of the leaders he more than likely had in mind during this address was junior All-SEC wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers.
    
Rogers, who missed the previous Thursday’s practice for “internal issues” and was also rumored to be contemplating transferring to Georgia State, spoke to the media for the first time since last season and addressed many of the issues surrounding him and his future at the school.
   
 “No controversy, I just had some things I had to handle off the field,” said Rogers. “I got those handled. I am looking forward to moving forward and becoming a championship contending team.”
    
Rogers views his situation, which was viewed by many in the national media as indicative of more of the same locker room strife that plagued the Vols in the latter half of the 2011 season, as one that is not only past him, but also a non-issue as he looks for the team to move forward.
    
“Once and for all,” he said. “The whole team, I think we have all come together and I think this is the year, the team chemistry is great this year. Honestly, I think this might be the year.”
    
Rogers also spent time reaffirming his relationship with quarterback Tyler Bray and fellow receiver Justin Hunter.
    
“I had a conversation with my teammates, Bray and Justin, specifically on the side,” Rogers said. “We really just talked about how we can move forward and getting everything on the right track so we can move in the right direction as a team.”
    
Hunter also backed up Rogers’ sense of unity in the huddle.
    
“He’s like our brother,” Hunter said. “He had a problem and needed help with it. That’s about it. He just needed to calm down. We were there for him and talked to him and just told him that everything would be all right.”
    
For Dooley, Rogers’ development as a person and a player stands as one of the key stories of the spring, as the Calhoun, Ga., product’s 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns would have been hard to replace.
   
 “Deep down in the core of Da’Rick, he loves Tennessee,” Dooley said. “He always has. He wants to be here and he wants to help the team win. Every player wants that.”