UT's Smokey in rehab for ACL condition

11:00 PM, Oct 7, 2011   |    comments
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The University of Tennessee's mascot, Smokey IX, will be taking it a little easy on the sidelines at Saturday's game against Georgia.

The bluetick hound is suffering from an ACL condition and is in rehab at UT's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"(It's) not a tear, but a tissue pulling-apart. That happens to 98 percent of all canines as (part of) the aging process," said Joy Postell-Gee, UT's head spirit coordinator. "In fact, it's a $1.4 billion industry, so that kind of tells you how frequent it is."

Postell-Gee said the issue came to light during the UT-Cincinnati game back on Sept. 10.

Smokey's veterinarian, Dr. Darryl Millis, who was at the game, checked Smokey and discovered the problem. The 8-year-old hound already had been dealing with osteoarthritis and low-grade medial patella, which means the kneecap can pop in and out of its rightful place.

The day after the game, he began his rehab sessions, which include walking on an underwater treadmill.

Even though Smokey is in rehab, that doesn't mean he won't be making an appearance in Neyland Stadium.

"He will be a the game," Postell-Gee said. "He is just, as we like to say in the athletic world, he might be on the injury report, but he's not on the disabled report."

His senior handler, Robert Moser, said Smokey will still lead the team onto the field through the "T" but probably won't be doing as much running in the end zones during the game. However, he won't be doing his usual resting during halftime - he's set to make a special appearance with the Pride of the Southland Marching Band.

"I've seen a lot of concern," Moser said. "That's the great thing about Tennessee fans is they love our mascot just as much as they love the football team, so I've had a lot of concerns, but I just reassure people that he's doing great and he'll be there on Saturday."

Concern for Smokey is even coming from rival mascots.

Russ, who is acting as Georgia's mascot, sent a message to his fellow canine.

"Hi, Smokey," said the message from Russ. "We mascots pay the price. I had and ACL injury last year and they won't let me run anymore. I hope you recover completely. Take it easy, let it heal."

It's a message Smokey's handlers are positive he'd appreciate.

"I'm sure Smokey would be very gracious and extend a 'thank-you,' and that he's going to be fine and on the mend, so (Russ had) better look out for us," Postell-Gee said.

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