ATHENS -- The outside world hears about the arrest and shakes its head. The fans and media wonder how long the suspension will be, find out and move along.
But the player who has been arrested and suspended has to go on, living in a netherworld where he is still a member of the team, but feels like its on hold. He has to live with himself, knowing that until he finally gets back on the field, his name is always associated with being suspended, and because of a transgression.
That was the biggest punishment, what I had to go through off the field, what I put my family through, put the university through, all that, Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings said. Missing the games, that was probably the easiest part of the punishment, really.
During the second of those two games Commings was suspended, this past Saturday at Missouri, Commings received a text from another Georgia teammate.
Weve got a couple hours and were free, linebacker Chase Vasser, also suspended, told Commings.
And now they are free.
Commings and Vasser, each listed as starters entering the preseason, were also each arrested earlier this year and suspended the first two games of the 2012 season. Commings likely returns to the starting lineup, at either safety or cornerback, while Vassers suspension might have cost him a starting spot at outside linebacker.
But Vasser, arrested for a DUI in the spring, said he was glad in a way that it happened, because it enabled him to learn a lesson.
It was a rude awakening. I mean, Im definitely embarrassed by it, I definitely learned my lesson. Im definitely gonna do whatever I can to help anybody who ever gets in some situation like that, Vasser said. Once it happened, I talked to the coaches and just told them I was gonna come back strong.
Commings was arrested in January after an incident in downtown Athens with his live-in girlfriend. He was charged with a misdemeanor domestic battery, a charge that was eventually settled without further jail time. But he was still suspended two games by head coach Mark Richt, a decision that Commings admits surprised him.
Because, like I said, what really happened, they (the coaches) know what happened, Commings said. But anytime a player gets arrested for anything, there has to be some suspension.
Richt on Tuesday said that when he weighed the circumstances Commings deserved to stay on the team, but he felt two games was appropriate.
He needed to be disciplined for what he did, Richt said. Its one thing to miss a game, and that hurts them. They dont like it, but also part of the punishment is what you have to live with as a person because of all the attention that it gets. You have to look your parents in the eye, you have to look your teammates and coaches in the eye, you have to go to class. There is a lot of embarrassment to what happens when everything comes to light and is talked about over and over and over.
He certainly didnt behave the way he should, and hes paying his debt to society, hes paying his debt to the program, in my opinion. Im glad hes handled everything the way hes handled it, and I think hell move forward and be a positive person and a positive teammate.
Still, as late as last week, Commings thought there was a chance he could play at Missouri. Commings said he appealed his two-game suspension, hoping it would be commuted down to one. He found out either Wednesday or Thursday, he couldnt remember when exactly, that the appeal had been denied.
I waited too late to appeal it, Commings said. It would have been like I was coming back to just to ensure the win against Missouri. Rather than if I had done it months ago in the summer, it wouldve been different.
To his great relief, the suspension did not cost the Bulldogs the game. They rallied to beat Missouri 41-20. Commings watched the game in Athens with Jeremy Longo, the former Bulldogs player. Vasser watched the game with his parents.
They kept mentioning how it was uncomfortable, they didnt like it, and I wasnt liking it and they made me stressful, Vasser said, smiling.
So then he texted Commings.
Weve gotta learn from this, Vasser told Commings.