ATHENS – If there was any doubt that Mark Richt has become a little gun shy when it comes to the game status of his players, consider this: When asked if all of Georgia’s suspended players would be returning this week, he said: “If they behave.”
When asked specifically about Washaun Ealey’s return, Richt said: “If nothing happens between now and then.”
Ever have a speeding ticket or an accident on your driving record and you were just waiting for the moment when it finally dropped off so insurance rates would go down? That’s sort of where the Bulldogs are at this week — or at least should be at kickoff Saturday at South Carolina. Three players (Ealey, Tavarres King, Alec Ogletree) return from suspensions. Others among the nine arrests since the spring have been either kicked out, transferred or are out of Bulldog timeout.
Only A.J. Green still has an issue.
He’s not free. He’s not suspended. It’s more like he’s in NCAA limbo.
Now, it would be very easy for me to fill the next few paragraphs with rumors about why Georgia held Green out of the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette and why, when the team’s new depth chart came out Tuesday, his name was listed below the rest of the flankers, in italics, with an asterisk and adjacent to the notation, “Status TBD.”
But I won’t do it.
We hear rumors every day. I used to tell people that when it comes to rumors and the personal lives of athletes, I don’t write 90 percent of what I hear and/or see and know. Unfortunately, in today’s too often moronic, TMZ-obsessed world, where everybody has a camera phone, a blog or access to anonymous commenting on message boards, too much is thrown against the digital wall. Far more than 90 percent goes unreported. Media must constantly react to generally irrelevant, nonsensical and often baseless “reports,” like whether an NFL quarterback really took pictures of his nether regions and texted them to a woman.
If Ernie Pyle was subjected to today’s media, he would be asked to chase down a rumor about whether Churchill and Roosevelt once dated the same Hooters waitress.
Back to Green: We should have some resolution this week. Richt said as much Tuesday: “I’d be highly disappointed if we didn’t hear something this week.”
But understand this: The NCAA isn’t stalling. It’s not intentionally trying to make Green, Richt or Georgia fans miserable. There are reasons this is taking so long. If this investigation centered on something as simple as whether a player took a plane ticket to party with an agent in South Beach, it likely would have been resolved by now.
Is it certain Green did something against the rules? No. But there is a reasonable belief among NCAA investigators that he may have. He is being investigated for a reason. So please, no more conspiracy theories.
The most remarkable thing about of all this is that Green has not seemed openly worn down by the chain of events.
“I actually talk to him a lot because all of my roommates are receivers –Tavarres King and a couple of walk-ons,” center Ben Jones said. “He doesn’t really show his emotions. He doesn’t act like it’s affecting him much.”
When asked if Green was anxious to return this week, receiver Kris Durham said: “I’m sure he is, especially with this being South Carolina week and that’s his home state. I’m sure he’s ready to play. But unfortunately he has to wait and see what the ruling is. But he’s still preparing like he’s gonna play this week.”
Quarterback Aaron Murray said he sat with Green and King for a time during last week’s game. “I was like, ‘Hey, when you all get back to work, let’s have a great week of practice and get ready for the game.’ They definitely were upset that they weren’t out there, but it fueled them even more.”
At this point, dealing with the rumors and extended purgatory seems worse than any definite suspension Green may get. There’s a certain comfort in knowing what you’re dealing with — and why.
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