ATHENS – Georgia’s Sanders Commings contradicted himself Tuesday. On one hand he said the hardest thing about his two-game suspension was having to sit home and watch the Missouri game Saturday. Later, he said the toughest part was the shame he felt from the seemingly endless stream of media reports that came out the past six months.
The bottom line, Commings said, is it has been a long and hard road, and he is glad it’s over. Commings and linebacker Chase Vasser were reinstated this week after two-game suspensions for offseason arrests. Both players will play their first games of the season Saturday night against Florida Atlantic.
“It was pretty tough,” said Commings, who spoke to reporters for the first time since his January 21 arrest for domestic violence. “But it’s been a learning experience. … I’ve learned that I need to put myself around people who bring the best out of me.”
Commings pleaded guilty to simple battery and disorderly conduct in February. Vasser was arrested and charged with DUI in Buckhead in May. Vasser received an automatic two-game suspension per UGA’s student-athlete handbook.
“It was a rude awakening,” said Vasser, a junior who started three games at strongside linebacker last season. “I’m definitely embarrassed by it. I definitely learned my lesson and I’m definitely going to help anybody who happens to get into the same situation. Once it happened I told the coaches I’m going to come back strong.”
Punishment for Commings’ misdemeanor arrest was left to the discretion of coach Mark Richt. Commings said initially he “was surprised” to get two games. He appealed the suspension but said he “waited too late” and found out the middle of last week he wouldn’t make the trip to Columbia, Mo.
“He needed to be disciplined for what he did,” Richt said. “The amount of time that was spent was appropriate. It’s one thing to miss a game. That hurts them, and they don’t like that. But part of the punishment is also what you have to live with as a person because of all the attention that it gets.”
Commings remained in Athens and watched the game on TV with former teammate Jeremy Longo. He said he was relieved the Bulldogs pulled out the 41-20 victory.
“I’d have been pretty down if we would’ve lost,” he said. “… Our guys were so pumped up. It was an environment you want to play in, a hostile environment. I was glad we got the win.”
Vasser watched the game at home in Gainesville with his parents, which he said was “stressful because they were freaking out over the game. I didn’t like it.”
Vasser said he was getting extra attention Tuesday from defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who doubles as his position coach.
“He had a little fun getting after me,” Vasser said. “He knows when he yells at me it makes me mad. . . . My goal is to come back and pretty much punish the man in front of me.”
Commings and Vasser were two of four defensive starters who missed the Missouri game because of disciplinary suspensions. Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and free safety Bacarri Rambo were left home because of undisclosed violations of team rules. However, it has been widely reported they are serving four-game suspensions because of second violations of UGA’s marijuana-use policy.
Because that is considered an “internal” matter, the Bulldogs have been vague about the reason of their absences and remained so Tuesday. “We’ll wait to see for sure what happens,” Richt said.
With the All-American Rambo out, former walk-on Connor Norman has started at free safety. Commings has started multiple games at safety and could play there. That would allow the Bulldogs to stick with converted receiver Malcolm Mitchell at boundary corner, where they’ve been quite pleased.
“He’s a guy that’s going to play both corner and safety for us,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said of Commings. “He played that last year and he’s been playing both for us the last couple of weeks, so he’ll play at both positions on Saturday.”
The Bulldogs welcomed back their disciplined comrades with open arms.
“Having them back just makes us that much deeper,” All-American outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “Having those younger guys get that experience and play and learn, especially in a big game like Missouri, where they can get the jitter-bugs out, that’s going to help us down the stretch.”
Said Jenkins: “Man, I feel good about it. They’re weapons we weren’t able to use the first two games. Now, since we were able to manage without them, to have them back is a big relief, because we know what kind of capabilities that they have from a team standpoint. To have those guys back feels as if everything’s starting to come together.”
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