ATHENS — Georgia senior cornerback Sanders Commings, his two-game suspension served, has been cleared to play in Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic. A two-year starter at boundary corner, Commings was listed Tuesday as the the backup to Malcolm Mitchell at that position. He could play some at safety.
But Commings’ assignments in his first game back was the not primary topic of conversation as the Augusta native spoke to media for the first time since his late January arrest for domestic battery. Commings spoke candidly about how much it hurt having his previously spotless reputation sullied and being unable to compete with his teammates.
“That was the biggest punishment,” Commings said, “what I had to go through off the field, what I had to put my family through, the university through, all of that. Missing the games, that was probably the easiest part of the punishment.”
Commings said he actually appealed his two-game suspension but had “waited too late.” The athletic department, he said, didn’t want it to look as though he was being reinstated “to ensure a win against Missouri.”
Junior outside linebacker Chase Vasser also returns this week from a two-game suspension for a May DUI arrest. UGA said he’ll be available for interviews after practice Tuesday evening.
Commings was accused of striking a woman with whom he’d had a long-term relationship during a late-night argument in downtown Athens on Jan. 21. Commings eventually plead guilty to simple battery and disorderly conduct and was sentenced to a year of probation and counseling.
Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked to about the decision to suspend Commings two games.
“Well, I’ll just say that I think Sanders, after listening to everything and hearing everything, I felt like he did deserve to stay on the team,” Richt said. “He needed to be disciplined for what he did. 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. You’ve got to look your parents in the eye, you’ve got to look your teammates and coaches in the eye, you’ve got to go to class. I mean, there’s a lot of embarrassment to what happens when everything comes to light and is talked about over and over and over.
“He certainly didn’t behave as he should and he’s paid his debt to society, he’s paid his debt to the program, in my opinion, and I’m glad he’s handled everything the way he’s handled it. I think he’ll move on and be a real positive person and a positive teammate.”
Following are some of Commings’ other comments from his first interview opportunity since his arrest:
Q: How have the last few months been?
“They’ve been tough. At the same time I’ve been patiently waiting, practicing, making sure I’m ready when I finally got to come back.
Q: What was worst thing about it?
“The toughest part was probably watching the Missouri game. Our guys were so pumped up. It was an environment you want to play in, a hostile environment. But I was glad we got the win.”
Q: Were you relieved that Georgia won?
“I was. I’d have pretty down if we would’ve lost. I could’ve contributed and helped us win.”
Q: Where did you watch game and with whom?
“I was here, watching at home. I watched it Jeremy Longo. He came into town and watched it with me.”
Q: What do you take away from this situation?
“It was pretty tough. 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. That’s about it.
Q: How will you be incorporated back into the defense?
“I’ll be bouncing around from safety to boundary to everywhere really. Wherever I can help the team.”
Q: Have you ever looked more forward to a Tuesday practice?
“I was looking forward to yesterday’s practice and it was basically a walk-through.”
Q: Were you concerned that you may be dismissed from the team?
“No, I wasn’t worried [about being able to return] because I’ve stayed out of trouble since I’ve been here and, you know, the coaches know the story behind what happened. So I wasn’t really worried about that.”
Q: What was your initial reaction to hearing a two-game suspension?
“I was surprised because, like I said, of what really happened. But anytime a player is arrested for anything there has to be a suspension.”
Q: Did you appeal your suspension?
“I did. But I waited too late to appeal it.”
Q: When did you appeal it?
“A couple of weeks ago.”
Q: Could it have been reduced?
“It was a possibility. There was a chance. But we didn’t want it to seem like I was coming back just so we could win.”
Q: What do you mean “too late?”
“If they had flipped it at the last second it would have been like I was just coming back to ensure the win against Missouri, rather than if I had done it months ago, back in the summer. That would’ve been different.”
Q: When did you find out exactly you wouldn’t be traveling to Missouri?
“Wednesday or a Thursday, I can’t remember exactly.”
Q: Has this affected your relationship with Coach Richt?
“He definitely forgave me way back. We’ve been close ever since the situation. So the situation is over and done with and I’m just looking forward.”
Q: How do you believe it will affect the team going forward?
“Really I just think we have more depth now because the other guys stepped in and played and they played well. Even if all of us were playing, maybe we would have done a little better because we were more experienced than some of the guys that got to play, but those guys played lights out.”
Q: Do you feel like you have to be exceptionally impressive since you lost playing time?
“No. I’m just anxious more than anything. I’m not really trying to go out there and show off. I’m just trying to do what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here and that’s work hard and practice and execute on Saturdays.
Q: Will you play corner or safety?
“I’m working both right now in practice. I’m not sure how it will work.”
Q: Could you have refused interviews today?
“I could have but you can’t run forever. Might as well get over with.”
Q: Do you think you’re game ready?
“I feel pretty prepared. Our coaches do a great job of making sure everybody’s prepared. So I don’t feel any less prepared than if I had played the last two games.”
Q: How did your parents react?
“They backed me. They told me just learn from this and move forward. When you get back on the field, make sure everybody knows it.”
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