Injuries remain Georgia's 'story of the year'

semerson@macon.comOctober 24, 2013 

ATHENS - Mark Richt took a second on Thursday and marveled: Normally leading up to a Florida game the dominant topic would be the next opponent. But not at this press conference.

"What did we talk about injuries for the first 80 percent of this meeting so far?" Richt said, looking around the room. "It's been the dominating story. We don't want to make it the story of the year. We want to win ballgames. We want to prepare to win with who we have available."

In all, there were 24 players on Georgia's official injury report, 13 of whom have started at least one game this year. But the biggest name is on the mend.

Todd Gurley practiced a second straight day. The star tailback has missed three straight games with a sprained ankle, incurred early in the win over LSU. Richt did not characterize Gurley's status for next week's game against Florida, but unless there is a setback, it appears Gurley is a go.

"He did good. I'm encouraged," Richt said.

Meanwhile, another key offensive player also appears on the way back.

Receiver Michael Bennett (knee) was running on the side with an athletic trainer, practicing his ability to cut and sprint. Bennett has not played the past two games, after tearing his meniscus at Tennessee. Head coach Mark Richt said he only watched Bennett run straight ahead.

"He wasn't trying to like break a land-speed record or anything. But he was sprinting and striding out pretty good," Richt said. "He looked good. I would think he would be practicing Monday, I would guess."

Georgia needs Bennett back because it's starting to look doubtful that Chris Conley (ankle sprain) will be able to play against Florida. Conley, the leader in catches and yards among the injury-riddled receivers, missed a second straight practice on Thursday. Conley was not the only receiver out: Senior Rantavious Wooten (hip bruise) was sitting out a second straight practice.

So did safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who like Conley was injured in Saturday's loss at Vanderbilt.

"I would guess Josh Harvey is closer than Chris (to returning to practice), and I don't know if Josh will practice Monday or not," Richt said.

Safety Tray Matthews (hamstring) was also running on the side with a trainer. The freshman has missed the past three games after re-injuring the hamstring that slowed him in preseason practice.

Center David Andrews (foot sprain) was also not practicing on Thursday, after being listed as out of Tuesday's practice. It was not clear when Andrews was hurt. Senior Dallas Lee, normally the starting left guard, was the first-team center in the absence of Andrews. But Richt did not appear too worried about Andrews, who has started every game the past two seasons.

"We're hoping it such a temporary thing we didn't think much about it," Richt said.

Freshman inside linebacker Reggie Carter injured his knee during Tuesday's practice. The severity was not known yet to Richt.

Finally, reserve fullback Merritt Hall (concussion) was also being held out of practice.

All of this is in addition to the three players who have already suffered season-ending knee injuries: Tailback Keith Marshall and receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley.

The good news for Georgia is that it doesn't have a game on Saturday, and that its next opponent, Florida, has suffered even more season-ending injuries.

Bye week plans

Players will be free of football responsibilities this weekend, meaning no practice, meetings or mandatory weight-lifting. Once they're done with classes Friday, they can head out of town like regular students.

"I'm sure a lot of guys that have a little distance to go, it'll give them a shot to go home for a couple days," Richt said. "It'll be good for them."

Here is some video of Gurley running during some simple drills early in Thursday's practice:

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