JT Daniels, George Pickens among Georgia players in COVID protocol, booster shots offered before holiday break

100221 ATHENS: Georgia fans fill the stadium for a top-10 showdown with Arkansas in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Georgia quarterback JT Daniels and receiver George Pickens are among UGA players who have been placed in COVID protocol, per sources. Daniels is vaccinated but Pickens’ vaccination status is unknown.

The Georgia football medical staff will be offering its players booster shots on Wednesday amid the recent surge in COVID-related cases across the sports landscape. Coach Kirby Smart is not expected to be made available to the media to update player statuses until the team arrives in South Florida on Sunday.

Texas A&M shut down its prep for Wake Forest in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (Dec. 31), per a Yahoo news story. Per the report, “TexAgs.com first reported that an outbreak hit mainly vaccinated athletes, and multiple position groups had been hit “particularly hard.”

More than 140 players in the NFL are already on the Week 16 COVID list, and 213 players -- nearly 10 percent of the league -- have tested positive for COVID since the start of last week, per NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero.

The NBA enhanced its safety measures last week amid the rise of COVID, using masks more often and having additional testing.

Smart indicated at SEC Media Days last July that more than 85 percent of the Georgia football team -- the league’s benchmark -- was vaccinated. Sources have told DawgNation that there are vaccinated and unvaccinated players in COVID protocol.

The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs play No. 2-ranked Michigan at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., in the Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal.

Georgia players are expected to take a short break after practice on Wednesday for the holidays before reporting back on Saturday night and traveling to South Florida on Sunday.

Bulldogs’ outside linebacker Nolan Smith, a third-year sophomore believed to be angling toward returning for another season, said on Tuesday UGA has tightened its COVID protocols of late.

“Mostly wearing masks in the building, that’s a big thing we have going on, starting back and wearing masks again,” Smith said. “Everyone thought we were done with the masks, and now the masks have come back.”

Smith said the Georgia players are dedicated toward “anything to win games” as well as keeping one another and their respective families’ protected.

“A lot of guys are about to go home to their families,” Smith said. “I’m going to see my grandmom and going to go hunting with my uncle, and I don’t want to get those people sick.”

Bulldogs’ defensive end Travon Walker, who is among the underclassmen considering declaring himself eligible for the NFL Draft, said it has been an item of discussion.

“We don’t want to lose any players to something we can kind of prevent, by putting back on our masks, so that has been a conversation,” Walker said. “It’s by choice, but the type of team we have, the guys don’t want to risk missing the game because it’s so big to us, so we’re starting to put back our masks on our own.”

Walker, like Smith, plans on seeing several family members over the brief holiday break before the team travels to South Florida the day after Christmas.

“Just basically getting home to see my parents, grandparents, and spend time with my nieces and sisters,” Walker said. “That’s my big objective over this break.”

Per the Yahoo story, there were 17 bowl games canceled last season and 22 teams opted not to play in bowl games.

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