ATHENS — Georgia fans and former teammates are behind Richard LeCounte as the former teammate battles to return from injuries, but NFL teams are at the point of the evaluation process where they take a more critical eye.
LeCounte’s NFL draft stock took another hit this week when he pulled out of the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala, a sign that he’s not yet recovered enough to showcase his skills.
RELATED: Scary details emerge from LeCounte’s Halloween Night dirt bike accident
But beyond that, LeCounte’s no-show means he won’t be able to meet with the head coaches and general managers from all 32 NFL teams that are on hand to observe practices and interview players.
The Senior Bowl is also one of the few opportunities teams will have to perform a medical assessment, and LeCounte’s agent might not feel like his client is up to that yet.
“With this in injury, with missing time, with the question mark of what happened, it could drop him into Day Three,” said Zack Patraw, President of the NFL Draft Bible. “I have him as a third-round prospect still. If he slips into round three, someone will get a steal, because the kid can play.”
Patraw, however, concedes that pulling out of the Senior Bowl is a “bad look” that had to be measured carefully by LeCounte’s agent.
“If you’re not 100 percent and you’re trying to push it at 80 percent, that’s just gonna make you look bad and drop your draft stock,” he said, asked why some players pull out.
Florida quarterback Kyle Trask also pulled out of the event, citing an ankle injury.
UGA has six other former players on hand at the Senior Bowl this week, not including Jamie Newman, who was with the program in the offseason.
RELATED: Jamie Newman Senior Bowl helmet revealed
The Senior Bowl is more important than ever this year because the NFL combine has been canceled on account of the Covid pandemic.
GMs and head coaches aren’t expected to travel to teams’ Pro Days on account of the limited access they’ll have on account of schools’ strict Covid protocol.
LeCounte has plenty of great film at Georgia, to the extent he was being discussed as a late-first round pick midway through his season before his Halloween Night motorcycle accident.
Based on projections from last year’s rookie contacts — this year’s numbers are not yet set — LeCounte’s accident might have cost him millions of dollars.
Total compensation for a 4-year rookie, mid-second round pick deal last year was approximately $6.8 million dollars.
The compensation drops to $4.65 million in the third round, $4.03 million in the fourth round, $3.61 million in the fifth round and $3.47 million in the sixth round.
But the severity of LeCounte’s motorcycle accident has apparently taken a toll. He was reportedly struck by a car and knocked unconscious at the scene before being transported by ambulance to the hospital after crashing an unregistered dirt bike lacking lights at dusk on Macon Highway.
There’s been an outpouring of support for LeCounte, a fan and media favorite whose charismatic smile lights up a room.
But there have yet to be any answers as to why he was on the motorcycle, and where he was going just one hour after the team’s charter flight had returned from Kentucky.
Georgia did not make LeCounte available for interviews the remainder of the season, and he has yet to break his silence other than to thank fans on social media for their support, and question some of the early positional rankings.
Many can only wonder “What-if” the motorcycle accident had never happened.
LeCounte was having an All-American year last season and coming off a career-high 13-tackle effort in a 14-3 win over Kentucky leading into the accident.
RELATED: Game ball, Richard LeCounte dominates in 14-3 win
Now, it will come down to LeCounte having a very strong Pro Day for the Bulldogs this spring leading into the NFL draft, which is scheduled April 29-May 1.
NFL teams are going to want to see that LeCounte can run and jump and change direction as fluidly as he did before the motorcycle accident, and the teams will all ask him about the dirt bike accident.