NEW ORLEANS, DEC. 27 -- Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore practiced today for the first time in nearly six weeks but hesitates to pronounce himself fit for the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl against Tennessee.

But when pressed for a prediction, Moore said he expected to play, as long as therapy and practice sessions continue to be successful.

"The more I throw the ball, the better my timing will be," said Moore, who dislocated his right thumb Nov. 17 against Maryland and wore a cast for a month. "There was a throbbing pain all morning in practice. It's a little frustrating. . . . My thumb was sprained up top. That's where I get most of my control when I throw the ball and that's where the pain is."

Moore expected to practice by last Friday in Charlottesville before the team left for a four-day Christmas break, but the thumb was still sore. Team physician Frank McCue's original prognosis was for a full recovery within six weeks -- last Saturday.

"He's not the same," wide receiver Derek Dooley said. "I don't know how much of it is with his thumb or how much of it is because he hasn't thrown in a month."

Matt Blundin, who had seven rebounds Thursday in Virginia's basketball victory over Marshall as part of his second straight December juggling two sports, practiced as the No. 1 quarterback today, although Moore received almost equal time with the first team. Moore will have massage and ultrasound therapy, and a final decision on his status is likely to be made by Sunday.

"It's my decision whether I play or not," Moore said.