JT Daniels shares honest thoughts on possible return of George Pickens

JT Daniels-George Pickens-Georgia football
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles)
Mackenzie Miles

Like many, JT Daniels wants to see George Pickens back on the field. The Georgia quarterback doesn’t think there’s a wide receiver in the sport that can say they are better than Pickens.

But Daniels — who sustained his own ACL injury and then faced a lengthy recovery process — doesn’t want Pickens out there before he is totally ready.

“The most important thing is to make sure you’re ready when you come back, is what I’m always going to tell him,” Daniels said. I’m going to keep telling him. As much as I want George back in the starting lineup, because I don’t think there’s anybody better than him anywhere, I think him being fully healthy and fully prepared to play is the most important thing.”

Pickens was seen working at practice this week, though he was just running routes while wearing a black non-contact jersey. The wide receiver from Hoover, Ala., was also sporting a knee brace on his surgically repaired knee.

Related: Georgia football open practice: George Pickens getting reps

During games, Pickens has been present on the Georgia sideline. He’s usually chatting with teammates, seeming like he is engaged with the team.

Given his NFL draft eligibility, there’s still a chance we never see Pickens play in a Georgia uniform again. He could easily choose to preserve his NFL future and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Of course, if he heals in time, he could help push this Georgia team even further. The Bulldogs have some nice pieces at wide receiver in tight end, but none as dynamic as Pickens.

In the four games started by Daniels in 2020, Pickens caught 23 passes for 373 yards and 4 touchdowns.

“He’s out there running with us now,” Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh said. “He’s feeling comfortable, getting his comfortability back. I feel like having around the team is going to help the wide receiver room go to the next level like we’re capable of doing. Having him around is just going to bring a lot more excitement and energy to the team because that’s what he brings as a player.”

Georgia coach Kirby Smart provided a more detailed update on the status of Pickens on Tuesday. The Georgia head coach relayed to reporters that Pickens, his mother and Georgia’s Ron Courson met with Dr. James Andrews. Andrews liked what he saw in Pickens thus cleared him to do some limited football activities, though obviously no contact yet.

Smart was hesitant to put a timeline on a return for Pickens, but the early returns have been positive.

“George has done a tremendous job of doing what he’s supposed to do in rehab, being where he’s supposed to be” Smart said. “He works out, you know, during the practice he only gets a little bit of time with us. He’s prescribed, like 15-20 minutes at the beginning of practice, and then he goes and does his rehab program and his lifting program. He’s done a great job of doing all that.”

Related: Georgia coach Kirby Smart: George Pickens ‘in a really good spot,’ cleared for limited football activity

Smart echoed what his quarterback said on Wednesday in that it is more important for Pickens to be focused on getting totally healthy rather than how quickly he can return to the team.

Because as much as Pickens could possibly help Georgia — much like many believe Daniels could’ve helped Georgia beat Florida last season — it is far more important for Pickens’ long-term to completely trust where he is at physically.

“With a guy who has the chance that he has for his future and his potential, as much as we’d all love to have him, I think the most important thing is making sure the person is ready and he’s medically cleared,” Daniels said. “Of course I have great trust in our training staff, but I don’t want him to say it’s better than it is. Just want to be focused on making sure he’s rehabbing, doing the right thing, and when he comes back, he’s coming back full speed.”

JT Daniels shares his thoughts on possible return of George Pickens

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