LOS ANGELES ― Georgia has been preparing for weeks to play Baker Mayfield, and the Bulldogs aren’t going to let some sick story change that.
Mayfield’s absence from Rose Bowl activities has become the storyline of the week, with the Heisman Trophy winner dealing with an illness, according to the team. Mayfield has been seen at practice, but he missed the media session on Friday, and his Oklahoma teammates said they were not allowed to talk about him.
But it doesn’t sound as if this is altering Georgia’s preparation for the game on Monday.
“I mean, he’s the Heisman winner. It’s the Rose Bowl. This is the playoffs,” senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. “I mean, you can’t expect anything other than him going out there and playing at 110 percent. I mean, we don’t really worry about none of that stuff.”
Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said he didn’t expect Mayfield would miss the game. In fact, Tucker laughed at the prospect.
“He may be under the weather. You know really in a game like this you expect him to be at his best, we want him to be at his best. That’s part of the challenge and the competition factor, and this is what it’s all about,” Tucker said. “We’ll see, but that’s not part of our thinking that he’s going to be anything less than what we’ve seen.”
Georgia sophomore safety J.R. Reed said he only heard about Mayfield’s illness on the way to the media session. He sounded as if he didn’t know quite what to think.
“He could be faking,” Reed said, in a way that indicated he doesn’t think Mayfield is faking. “I hope it’s not true because I want to go against him. I want to go against the best guy out there. But if it is I wish him the best of luck. Get well soon.”
The consensus among Georgia players: Even if Mayfield is really sick now, and even if he’s really sick on Monday, he’s going to play.
Georgia defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter said this when asked if he had ever missed a game because of illness:
“I played in the game. I did have a fever. But I still played,” Ledbetter said. “I just put on the thermal and tried to sweat it out in pregame. I was in the hotel coughing and throwing up, but I still came out and played. If I’m not broken, something’s not broken, I’m going to play. Until they tell me I can’t play I’m going to play.”