ATHENS – Two players who briefly left Georgia’s football team this month seem happy to be back.
Freshman linebacker Dexter Morant, who was gone for three days because of homesickness, and sophomore cornerback Branden Smith, who was gone for eight days because of an academic issue, spoke with reporters Monday for the first time since rejoining the team.
Morant said he left Athens on Aug. 3 because “I’m not used to being away from home.” But he said he realized he’d made a mistake soon after arriving home in Manning, S.C.
“A lot of my friends, when they saw me at home, were, like, ‘What are you doing here? You quit football?’ They were, like, ‘Man, we were depending on you,’” Morant said. “They kind of made me feel bad all over again. . . I realized I made the wrong decision.”
A chat with his high school coach, who cautioned against a decision that might lead to regrets later, also helped steer him back to Athens, Morant said.
“In a way, I don’t regret what I did,” he said, “because it opened my eyes to [the fact] I need to be here.”
Morant rejoined the team Aug. 6 and vows to stick around this time.
Smith, meanwhile, left the team Aug. 5 because of a question about whether a placement-test score would prevent him from enrolling in fall-semester classes. Smith said Monday that he had the option of continuing to practice while the issue was sorted out, but “I chose to handle my business.” He rejoined the team Friday after being cleared academically.
Smith, who said he has a 3.4 grade point average, described his absence as “just hard times, man,” but wouldn’t discuss the academic issue in detail.
“I’m just glad to be back,” he said. “It’s good being at Georgia.”
Coach Mark Richt canceled Monday’s scheduled practice at the last minute because of rain and instead treated the team to what has become a preseason tradition: a trip to the pool inside the Ramsey Center.
A number of players dove off the 10-meter platform, while others relaxed in the cool water.
“Finally jumped off the high dive,” senior linebacker Darryl Gamble said. “Scariest thing ever.”
Richt also went off the 10-meter board, doing a back flip in slacks and a dress shirt.
The Bulldogs will return to the practice field Tuesday.
Starting center Ben Jones‘ arthroscopic knee surgery went as expected Sunday, Richt said. Jones is expected back for the season opener Sept. 4 against Louisiana-Lafayette.