Between an injured foot, NFL aspirations and the lack of a pathway to the College Football Playoff for Georgia, there is reason to wonder why someone like Monty Rice would continue to practice and play during this 2020 season.
Rice has been dealing with a foot injury since the Alabama game. It has limited his availability in practice as well as games. It’s not a coincidence that Florida had a lot of success on wheel routes to running backs with Rice being compromised or even him not being out there for certain plays.
“I think the hardest thing is he doesn’t get the same quality of work and reps, so there can be times in a game where he might not have gotten as many reps,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.
But Rice is still able to play and the Bulldogs are a better team with him out there. Against Kentucky, Rice came on in relief for an injured Quay Walker. He then forced a fumble that snuffed out a promising drive for the Wildcats.
And the fact that he’s out there is helping show he’s capable of doing the same at the next level, especially when it comes to playing through pain. Conversely, a number of players, such as South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu this week, have opted on the season with the intention to ready for the NFL draft.
Smart shared why Rice doing what he’s currently doing — playing through the pain and continuing to gut it out — will only help him when he makes the jump to the next level.
“He’s improving his opportunity to go in the NFL because they have guys every week in the NFL who are 90 percent or 85 percent,” Smart said. “For those guys, they’re going to think extremely highly— at least the guys I’ve talked to in the NFL— of the players who are willing to push themselves and play hurt, as long as he can’t injure himself worse, which that can’t happen right now based on his injury.”
Smart said this week that Rice’s injury can’t get any worse by playing through it, so that is what he’ll continue to do for Georgia for the rest of the season. The Georgia head coach also had a passionate response against those who opt-out on the season at this point.
Fellow Georgia senior Richard LeCounte made it loud and clear on Tuesday night that he would not be opting out and that he hopes to return to the field this season.
Rice’s teammates know that he’s hurt but they very much appreciate he’s out there still playing for Georgia, rather than letting his injury fully heal. Rice missed time during his sophomore season with a foot injury that caused him to miss the SEC Championship game against Alabama.
“He’s just Monty. He’s always battling through injuries to go out there and give it all he’s got,” Malik Herring said. “He’s trying to be available to his teammates. I appreciate him for that.”
Fellow inside linebacker Nakobe Dean downplayed how Rice’s injury and the senior linebacker did have a season-high eight tackles against Florida.
“He’s still been working,” Dean said. “He’s encouraging everybody to get better every day. He’s a great leader, whether he’s been playing or not. It feels like he’s another coach out there.”
As for the Georgia head coach, he’s very appreciative of what Rice brings to the team. There’s been a lot of uncertainty surrounding this season, as evidenced by Smart alluding to the unknowns about the NFL combine or even Georgia pro day.
Smart though does know that he can count on Rice to be a leader for the team. And that when Georgia takes the field again it will have Rice out there, with him having another chance to show what he can do for NFL teams.
“What we know is we play Mississippi State at 7:30 on Saturday night,” Smart said. “And that’s an opportunity for you to go showcase what you can do against really good competition.”
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