ORLANDO -- Abry Jones could have done this differently. He could have just walked away and not risked it. No one would have blamed him. Others in his position have done just that.
But go to a Georgia football practice this week, at the aptly named Celebration High School, and there is Jones, the Bulldogs defensive end and former Northside standout, running around. The small brace on his left ankle is the lone visual reminder of the surgery that could have ended his Bulldogs career.
Jones is an NFL prospect. Not a major one, but a decent one. So he might have been wise to pack it up two months ago and not risk a re-injury to the ankle. The Capital One Bowl, after all, is basically an exhibition game.
But Jones wants to finish his college career on the field.
I feel like its my senior year, and I missed so much, I always wanna play one more game with the fellas, Jones said Friday. So definitely if I feel confident enough, and they let me play, Im gonna play. Thats what I want to do.
Head coach Mark Richt has seen nicked-up players take it cautious. Two years ago, fullback Shaun Chapas, now with the Detroit Lions, had surgery just before Georgias bowl.
Ever since he got hurt, his attitude was, I wanna get back, and I wanna play. Hes been working towards that the entire time, Richt said, adding that he doesnt know how much Jones will be able to play Tuesday. Just the thought of him fighting like mad to get back on the field is a sign of his integrity and a sign of his love of the game and love of Georgia, I think.
Jones would have preferred being able to play earlier this month in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs sorely needed him in the second half, when their run defense was gashed by Alabama.
I kind of see myself as a run-stopper type of guy, so I feel like I couldve really helped that game, Jones said.
The hope is that Jones is healthy enough now to at least cancel out the loss of another defensive lineman. Nose tackle John Jenkins is out with academic issues. That means Kwame Geathers will play most of the time at nose tackle, with Garrison Smith and Cornelius Washington at the end spots.
If Jones can play -- he estimated hes at about 75 to 85 percent now -- then he will join Ray Drew, Mike Thornton and Sterling Bailey as depth on the line.
Jones didnt have a sack before being hurt this year, but he had four last year, third most on the team, and he was hoping to build on that this year. The injury is a setback, but getting some action in the bowl -- and avoiding aggravating the injury -- would propel him to the next phase his career: the critical NFL Combine and individual workouts leading up to the draft.
Ive been here for four years, the work is already done. Playing in this game or not playing in this game is not really gonna change anything, Jones said, before adding, Hopefully not.