George Pickens-JT Daniels-injury
Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Georgia WR George Pickens ‘return is on the way,’ Kirby Smart provides update on receivers

ATHENS — George Pickens is back to straight-line running and will soon see internationally renowned Dr. James Andrews to evaluate his injured knee, per Kirby Smart.

“He’s been doing his rehab, he’s working hard, doing straight-line running, but I have no idea of a date of return, that’s just too far out right now,” Smart said on Tuesday.

A Pickens’ family member recently posted on social media that “the return is on the way,” but no one is expecting anything imminent, as Smart indicated.

Pickens suffered a torn ACL on March 24 in one of the first spring practices, but there has been speculation he might return in the latter stages of this season.

The No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (1-0) play UAB at 3::30 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN2) at Sanford Stadium, and will obviously be more looking for more offense than they could muster in the 10-3 win over Clemson.

Pickens had 36 catches for 513 yards last season -- 23 of those catches and 373 yards game in the last four games of the season, after JT Daniels took over at quarterback.

Daniels was little more than efficient against a tough Tigers’ defense, 22-of-30 passing for 135 yards with an interception.

It’s was worth noting, however, that UGA had just one player lined up on offense that caught more than 10 passes last season, Jermaine Burton.

At that, Smart revealed that Burton missed at least two-thirds of the spring and summer workouts and was not in game shape.

Georgia might soon get receiver Dominick Blaylock back on the field, as well as veteran Kearis Jackson.

Blaylock suffered a torn ACL more than a year ago (Aug. 27, 2020), while Jackson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his knee last summer.

Smart updated the status of both of those players on his Tuesday night Zoom call.

“Blaylock and Kearis are practicing every day, they are repping, they are going, they are cleared, Kearis was out there, and Dom is practicing every day,” Smart said. “It’s a matter of those guys working themselves back in.”

Smart explained that being “cleared” doesn’t necessarily mean a player is ready to play, and cited last season’s situation with JT Daniels as example.

“It goes back to our quarterback last year, you can’t just say you have to put him out there,” Smart said. “It takes more than that. You’re out there with people trying to knock your head off, and you’ve had an ACL surgery and you’d like to be 100 percent of your old self, and it may take a little bit to do that, especially on a second ACL (as Blaylock suffered).

“There’s a difference between game-ready and going out there and practicing.”

Georgia also expected to get tight end Darnell Washington back by midseason. Washington underwent foot surgery in mid-August.

Returning player receptions with Daniels at QB in 2020:

(Daniels played in four games)

George Pickens 23-373

Jermaine Burton 17-274

Kearis Jackson 9-118

Kenny McIntosh 6-60

Darnell Washington 5-107

Arian Smith 2-86

John FitzPatrick 5-49

James Cook 3-35

Zamir White 2-11

Kendall Milton 1-22