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Tennessee CB Thompson permitted to return to practice

(AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)

By STEVE MEGARGEE

AP Sports Writer

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Tennessee cornerback Bryce Thompson has returned to practice less than three weeks after his arrest on a misdemeanor domestic assault charge.

When he will start playing again remains uncertain.

Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said Wednesday in a university release that he believes "Bryce can grow by following the plan the university has put in place for him." Thompson practiced with the Vols later in the day.

The statement didn't release any details on the university's plan. University spokeswoman Tyra Haag said that "student privacy laws prohibit us from providing more specific information."

"There's still lots of things that have got to go on here with his situation," Pruitt said after Wednesday's practice. "He obviously made a mistake, but he needs to be around the football team. He's not practiced in three weeks, so he needs to practice. It's good for him."

Thompson was arrested Aug. 24. Pruitt announced two days later that Thompson was suspended indefinitely. A court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23.

Pruitt didn't indicate Wednesday when Thompson might play again but noted that the cornerback would need time to work his way back.

"It's hard to play when you haven't been practicing, right?" Pruitt said. "It's hard to get in shape. We've got to build up."

Tennessee (0-2) hosts Football Championship Subdivision program Chattanooga (1-1) on Saturday before opening Southeastern Conference competition next week. The Vols are 0-2 for the first time since opening with six straight losses in 1988.

Thompson was arrested after an argument with a woman. Thompson and the woman said they had been dating for four years.

The woman told police the situation began after she found another woman's fake eyelashes in Thompson's room. She said the argument started in Thompson's dorm room, moved to a stairwell and continued for 10 to 20 minutes.

The woman told police she couldn't remember "the entirety of what had occurred" during the argument "as it was a stressful, volatile situation."

Witnesses told police they heard Thompson threatening to slap a woman. One witness said he heard Thompson yelling he would "shoot up the school."

Another witness told police he also heard a man yelling about plans to "shoot up the school" but said he couldn't see who was making that comment because his view was blocked.

Thompson's lawyer, James Valliant, says the only two people in the stairwell at the time of the incident were Thompson and the woman. Valliant noted there weren't any other eyewitnesses.

Valliant said the only comments about Thompson potentially making threats weren't coming from anyone who could have seen the incident.

Since the arrest and suspension, reports have surfaced that Thompson and a former girlfriend had agreed to a mutual restraining order in April 2018. Thompson signed with Tennessee a month later.

The mutual restraining order was first reported by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Pruitt said the decision to allow Thompson to practice again was made in conjunction with other university officials.

"When you talk about something like this, you don't just make a decision out on your own," Pruitt said. "You have to consult people within our university, and obviously we have."

Thompson, a sophomore from Irmo, South Carolina, made 10 starts last season. He had three interceptions and seven pass breakups to lead the Vols in both categories.

Pro Football Focus, which rates and analyzes every player, gave Thompson the highest grade of any true freshman cornerback in the nation last season.

Tennessee lost 29-26 to BYU last week after the Vols allowed a stunning 64-yard completion that enabled the Cougars to kick a tying field goal with a second left to force overtime.

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Updated September 11, 2019

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