Knoxville police cited star Tennessee Volunteer running back John Kelly and freshman linebacker Will Ignont last night for misdemeanor drug possession. Police pulled Kelly over at 10:46 p.m. on Cumberland Avenue because a headlight on the car he was driving was out and, upon smelling marijuana, searched the car with consent and found 4.6 grams of pot and a glass pipe. The players have to present themselves for booking at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office before November 7.
Tennessee’s director of football communications released a statement saying that they were aware of the situation and were looking into it. So far, there’s been no announcement concerning the players’ availability for this weekend’s game against Kentucky.
It’s hard to get too alarmed about a pot possession charge in this day and age, but it certainly comes at a bad time for Butch Jones and the Tennessee program. With Jones in a posture of not being able to do anything right and having every action he takes and word he utters subjected to exaggerated scrutiny, adding a no-win situation to the mix just complicates things even further. Should he suspend his team’s best player for what may be Jones’ most important game, or should he keep the punishment internal?
Everyone loves John Kelly, and a minor offense concerning a drug that’s legal in several states likely isn’t going to change that. He’s the undisputed leader of the team and the one guy who’s really doing his best to keep the team together in the midst of the storm. But having that guy be the one guy who gets his name in the paper for the wrong reason is disappointing even if you’re someone who thinks this particular violation is more of a rule than a moral failing.
I’m certain that Kelly will bounce back and put this behind him. I’ll be rooting for him to do so. What this means for a team teetering on the edge of a cliff, though, remains to be seen.