ATHENS, Ga. - Jeff Owens hasn't participated in a full practice in 11 months, and he nearly missed his triumphant return. He spent the weekend in New York and a weekend bomb scare at the airport delayed his return until Monday afternoon, arriving back in Athens just a few minutes before the team's first meeting.
The hectic journey paled in comparison to the work he put in to rehab a torn ACL, however, but after one day of practice the effort seems to have paid off.
"I think I did quite well," Owens said. "I even conditioned with the team and I wasn't held out of anything. I think it's going pretty good."
That doesn't mean the practice was easy, however.
Georgia spent nearly three hours on the practice field Tuesday, the team's first practice session with coaches since April. The players only donned shorts and practice jerseys and there was no contact, but brushing away the cobwebs still meant breaking a pretty hearty sweat.
"The first day's always tough," Owens said. "It was tough for me, but overall, I think it went pretty well on both sides of the ball. The guys competed and got after it."
Tuesday not only marked Owens return from injury, but it was also the first chance coaches had to meet with Georgia's incoming freshmen class.
The findings on Day 1 weren't significantly different from the reports coaches had gotten from players throughout a summer of voluntary workouts - the freshmen were prepared and eager to learn more.
"When you can walk into a meeting room for the first time with guys this morning and ask them some questions and they can fire the answer back at you, it certainly means a lot at this point," tight ends coach John Lilly said.
Georgia will practice in shorts again today before putting on shells for the next three days of practice. Monday will feature two practice sessions, including the first with full pads and contact.
"It won't be the same until you get into your first day of pads and contact," safety Bryan Evans said. "We've been running all summer, but when you put on the weight and start banging on each other, that's when you really see where our team is at physically."
GEATHERS STILL WAITING
Sixteen freshmen got their first taste of life in the SEC when Georgia opened fall practice Tuesday, but lineman Kwame Geathers was not among them.
Geathers is still working to finalize his qualification, and the process of reviewing his materials is taking longer than expected, head coach Mark Richt said.
"He's still going through his NCAA review," Richt said. "He's still jumping through hoops. Every hoop that's been in front of him, he's jumped through successfully to this point. We're still very optimistic he'll be here soon, but you can't really predict how long (the review) will take."
While the delay has caused some concern regarding Geathers' eventual arrival, Richt said the school has not been made aware of any problems in the process thus far, but rather is simply waiting for the final approval.
"We're very confident that everything's going to go through," Richt said. "We've not hit a wall, it's just kind of a slow process."
GOOD FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The Bulldogs' first practice session may have been an eye-opener for many of the new faces on campus, but freshman tight end Orson Charles couldn't get enough.
After wowing his teammates during voluntary workouts this summer, Charles gave coaches a taste of his high-energy approach, and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was impressed.
"He loves to play." Bobo said. "He wanted to take every rep. He didn't want to sit out a single play. He's hungry, and when the ball was thrown to him today, he made some catches. He didn't know everything that was going on, but neither did A.J. Green last year, but he made plays."
The comparisons to Green are impressive enough, but the Georgia wide receiver said Charles actually reminds him more of another prominent Bulldog.
"He reminds me of Knowshon (Moreno) a little bit," Green said of Charles. "He's got one of those motors that never stops."
ENJOYING THE SILENCE
Before his team took the field for its first day of practice a year ago, Richt spent the morning answering questions about two players who had been arrested and a third who earned a suspension for damaging property at a local hospital. So when a reporter asked about the quiet offseason this year, Richt's response was relief.
"Amen," he said with a laugh.
The troublesome offseason a year ago foreshadowed a problematic season on the field in which Georgia was among the most penalized teams in the nation. Richt said his hope is that the trouble-free break this year will be precede a similar on-field turnaround.
"Have we been a more disciplined team from January to August than we were a year ago? To this point, we have," Richt said. "We hope that will translate to being a more disciplined team on the field."