ATHENS – Canine cone collars. That’s what they call those plastic shields that vets put on dogs to keep them from being able to further injure themselves. The dogs that have to wear them are fine, but you can tell from their expression they really wish somebody would get this silly contraption off of them.
Davin Bellamy says he can empathize with them. A starting outside linebacker for the Georgia Bulldogs, the senior from Chamblee has been having to wear a dreaded club cast on his left hand the past two weeks. Bellamy suffered a fracture of his third metacarpal bone in the first half against Tennessee. But other than the time it took to get Xrays and apply the cast — about seven minutes — Bellamy hasn’t let the injury slow him down yet.
That said, while he’s functioning just fine and carrying out his duties on the edge of Georgia’s defense, he so wants to get off that cumbersome cast and be able to grab quarterbacks like he’s used to.
“It’s like I have a dumbbell on my arm the whole time,” Bellamy said after the Bulldogs’ practice Tuesday. “Your hand is balled up inside. When you think about it, it’s very uncomfortable. When you’re practicing or in the game, your mind is on something and you don’t really think about it. But as soon you start thinking about it, you kind of get hand anxiety. Like, ‘oh, no, I can’t move my fingers!”
Now 11 days into wearing the three pounds of protection, Bellamy is starting to get used to it. In fact, he notched his first interception wearing the bulky wrap in practice on Tuesday.
“I had to look it in, had to have soft hands,” Bellamy joked. “It was about a 30-yarder and I made a little basket for myself. I took it to the house.”
That’s not all he did. Teammate Julian Rochester said Bellamy slid into the end zone at the end of his run, like he was arriving at home plate.
“So it’s not slowing him down too much,” Rochester said with a laugh.
It’s a good thing because Bellamy is having a ball this season. The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs (6-0, 3-0 SEC) are undefeated and the defense is the primary reason for it. Georgia leads the SEC in both total (242.7 ypg) and scoring defense (10.0 ppg) and is ranked third and second in the nation, respectively, in those categories.
There are a lot of reasons for that, and Bellamy and the fellow members of the “Wolf Pack” — the nickname the outside linebackers have given themselves — are one of them. Their unit has done a good job all year of not only putting pressure on the passer, but also of providing containment against the many mobile quarterbacks they’ve faced.
Their good work will be particularly important this Saturday as Missouri (1-4, 0-3) and its pass-happy offense comes to town. Quarterback Drew Lock and the Tigers are averaging 294 yards a game through the air and have thrown 13 touchdown passes. Mizzou attempts 35 passes per game.
“It’s really hard because they run the ball and throw the ball the same play which is tough,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday. “(Lock has) one of the quickest releases, strongest arms I’ve seen. He knows where to go with the ball. He knows who to stare down to read them. He’s very efficient in doing what he does and it’s tough to defend because you think they’re a passing offense but they ultimately want to run the ball first.”
That type of offense always maximizes the challenge for edge players on the defense. They want to get up field and pressure the passer, but have to stay alert to the run or quick passes in the flat.
That’s hard enough for two-handed players. Bellamy will be taking it on one-handed again this Saturday.
“This is already a tough sport, so when you play it with one hand it makes it tougher,” said Bellamy, who has 17 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, 6 QB pressures and one caused fumble his season. “But I think this is the last week for it. Hopefully after that bye week I’ll be free for Florida.”
No matter what, Bellamy’s going to be hard to get off the field. He actually suffered the break early in the first half of Georgia’s Oct. 1 game against Tennessee. He’s not exactly sure when it happened, though he did have a sack and two tackles for loss in the first half.
It wasn’t until halftime that Bellamy realized he was injured. He played two plays in the second half before the pain finally sent him to trainer Ron Courson. They went to the locker room for X-rays, he got his first experience of the club wrap, then he went back on the field to finish the game.
“Adrenalin was pumping,” Bellamy said. “I still wanted to get back out there even though were up by 30.”
Bellamy played the entire game at Vanderbilt with the club on and finished with three tackles and was credited with one-half of a tackle for loss. He said he’s getting better at playing with it but still thinks it’s holding him back a bit. He said he has always kind of specialized in “hand-to-hand combat.”
“I think it frustrates him at times,” Smart said. “He can’t rip off and tear off like he wants to. He can’t bull and push sometimes. He’s done a good job. I think he’s gotten better with it this week. … I think he shows a lot of toughness to go out there and play with it and not really let it concern himself with how he looks. He’s trying to help the team.”
And Bellamy has plenty of help himself. D’Andre Walker, who backs up both him and Lorenzo Carter, leads the team with 5 tackles for loss. Freshman Walter Grant plays occasionally and looks like a budding all-star.
But even with a big club on his left hand, the Bulldogs can’t do much better than Bellamy.
“I’ve just got to play ball,” he said “No excuses.”