090421 Charlotte: Teammates pile on Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith in the endzone after he intercepted a pass intended for Clemson wide reciever Justyn Ross and returned it for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead during the second quarter in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 4, 2021, in Charlotte. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Kirby Smart: COVID at ‘highest spike’ in Georgia football locker room, injury update

ATHENS — The fact Georgia football figures to have a capacity crowd of more than 90,000 at Sanford Stadium on Saturday might make it seem like things are back to normal.

But Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart made it clear that’s not the case as far as he’s concerned.

The Georgia football program is at its peak with COVID-19 related issues, Smart said, and the breakthrough variant of the virus has him concerned.

“Three or four” players have the virus, along with “a couple staff members” Smart said on Monday.

“For us, we’re at our highest spike,” said Smart, who interestingly enough chose to have the program’s first in-person media day on the same day he delivered the sobering message.

“People are talking about vaccination — these are people who are vaccinated. We’re talking about breakthroughs, so that concerns you …. the players that are vaccinated, that we could lose them.”

Only 42.1 percent of Georgia residents are fully vaccinated, with Alabama and Mississippi the only SEC states with a lower rate.

in Athens Clarke-County, where UGA is located, only 20.3 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and 126 people have been hospitalized with the virus that past seven days, per DISCOVERY statistician Mark Kooyman.

The University of Georgia, run by president Jere Morehead, said two weeks ago there would be no masks or social-distancing requirements at the capacity stadium, nor will anyone be asking for proof of vaccination.

Further, tailgating will also be permitted.

Morehead, interestingly enough, was elected in June to serve a two-year term as president of the Southeastern Conference, where he will serve as chairman of the league’s executive committee.

Smart and his coaches were very public when getting vaccinated during the offseason, with pictures being put up on social media of them getting the shots.

Smart didn’t reveal which players had tested positive for COVID, or when.

Clemson was missing a preseason All-American defensive lineman in Saturday’s game in Charlotte, reportedly on account of COVID, though Dabo Swinney refused to elaborate.

Georgia, despite Smart saying more than 90 percent of the team was vaccinated, had pressing concerns last week when it was disclosed head trainer Ron Courson had tested positive for COVID.

None of the Bulldogs’ projected starters missed the game for COVID-related reasons.

Smart provided some insight into other injured players, confirming the news that freshman offensive guard Tate Ratledge is out for the season.

Warren Ericson, who can play center and guard, said he no longer has a cast on his hand.

Injury update

WR Kearis Jackson, knee, questionable

WR Dominick Blaylock, knee, questionable

DB David Daniel, questionable

DB Tykee Smith, foot, out

TE Darnell Washington, foot, out

OG Tate Ratledge, out

WR George Pickens, out

WR Arik Gilbert, out

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