Tennessee took the field without starting catcher Evan Russell on Friday night to begin the NCAA Tournament. The lineup card was submitted, and Tennessee’s fifth-year senior was very notably absent.
Tony Vitello didn’t have an update before the game, instead he promised he would address the matter following Tennessee’s game with Alabama State. In the meantime, rumors spread wild on Twitter, even spilling over to an ESPN broadcast. On the Vanderbilt-Oregon State broadcast, ESPN claimed that Russell had failed a drug test and would be suspended for the rest of the season. That’s obviously false.
Vitello said that Russell was simply “sick” in his update after the game. It was a bit of a vague answer, but it did seem to shoot down the Twitter rumors that were started.
Russell’s father, Jason, then offered this update in the early hours of the morning.
Evan will an evaluation/physical with the Doctor this morning. He hasn’t failed any type of test or anything.He had a health issue arise that kept from from playing Yesterday. This is standard testing to be done. Evan will most likely be available today. God bless !! #Blessed
— Jason Russell (@jrussellsh4) June 4, 2022
Tennessee has since released a statement regarding the comments made by the ESPN team, saying they “expect a public apology today.”
So per Jason Russell, Evan is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when the Volunteers take on Campbell to continue the Knoxville Regional. Russell is batting .299 on the season, with 43 RBIs and 13 home runs.
Update: Evan Russell has been cleared and will be available tonight.