KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee has reinstated wide receiver Von Pearson to the team, two days after prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against him in connection with a rape investigation.
Tennessee announced on the football team's official Twitter account Friday that Pearson had been reinstated. Volunteers coach Butch Jones said that Pearson is expected to be back on the practice field Saturday.
Jones declined to go into detail on the reinstatement, citing privacy laws.
Pearson's lawyer, Chris Coffey, said in a statement that "Mr. Pearson is gratified by today's decision and he looks forward to continuing his academic and athletic career at the University of Tennessee."
Pearson had been suspended from the team since Knoxville police issued a report April 24 naming him as a suspect in a rape investigation. Knox County district attorney general Charme Allen announced Wednesday that "after a thorough review of the investigation, I have decided there is insufficient evidence to sustain a criminal prosecution against Von Pearson."
Jones and Coffey had said earlier this week that Pearson also had been suspended from school. Tennessee vice chancellor Margie Nichols said Friday that Pearson is eligible to re-enroll "just like any other student who's coming for the fall." Tennessee's fall semester begins Aug. 19. Nichols declined additional comment.
"Von's had a lot of conversations with us," Jones said after Friday afternoon's practice. "There's a standard, and there's an expectation. Before tomorrow, we'll have many more conversations. That's privileged information between our administration, myself and him."
Pearson caught 38 passes for 393 yards and had a team-high five touchdown receptions last season despite being hampered part of the year by an ankle injury that caused him to miss two games. He ranked second on the team in both catches and yards receiving.
Pearson's return means that Tennessee brings back all seven players who caught at least 20 passes or accumulated at least 200 yards receiving for the Vols last season.
"He's just a small piece of our football team, and he's going to have to work his way back in football shape and he's going to have to earn playing time," Jones said. "There is no entitlement in our football program. Before he's ready to go on the field, he's going to have to earn it because we have some players doing some very good things."
Pearson, a 6-foot-3 senior from Newport News, Virginia, arrived at Tennessee last year after playing two seasons at Feather River College in Quincy, California.
NOTES: Tennessee did some experimenting Friday by working sophomore LB Jakob Johnson at tight end. "I told him we'll give it a few days, we'll see how it works," Jones said. "He got valuable live game repetitions at linebacker, so he can always move back." ... WR Jason Croom wasn't a full participant in practice for a second straight day Friday as he recovers from a knee injury that prevented him from playing in the TaxSlayer Bowl win over Iowa last season. Jones said he doesn't expect it to be a long-term issue. ... Jones criticized his team's performance in Friday's practice. He said the team was too sloppy on offense and committed too many penalties. "I didn't see the leadership that's necessary to play winning football at an elite level," Jones said
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