Kirby Smart provides update on the status of Richard LeCounte as more crash details emerge

Richard LeCounte-Kirby Smart-Georgia football
Georgia defensive back Richard LeCounte (2) during the Bulldogs’ game against Texas A&M on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart made his first official comments regarding Georgia safety Richard LeCounte, who was injured in a traffic accident over the weekend.

“He was moved from an ICU room to a regular room, which was a good step, good news,” Smart said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. He’s got wonderful parents and we’ve been in communication with those guys. They have been up here, been able to be with him during this time.”

“We’re all hopeful and expecting a full recovery.”

Smart added that the team has sent video messages to the senior safety and wished him well. Smart did say that LeCounte is out for the foreseeable future as it pertains to seeing the field.

“It really hurt my heart,” offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer said of the news. “I know Richard loves his team. He loves football. He loves being a leader. I know it hurts him to be in this position and not be out there with his guys.”

LeCounte sustained a concussion, a shoulder injury and some bruised ribs in the accident, but fortunately, none of the injuries required surgery. The accident occurred on Saturday evening after the Bulldogs had returned home from a 14-3 win over Kentucky.

According to the police report put out by the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, LeCounte was riding on a Yamaha dirt bike traveling west on Macon Highway when he struck a car that was turning left into a gas station. The dirt bike then went into the oncoming traffic lane, where it was then hit by another vehicle.

The dirt bike LeCounte was riding on was unregistered and did not have brake lights or turning signals according to a follow-up report. LeCounte made contact with the first car and then was thrown into traffic where he was hit by a second car. The police estimate the accident occurred at 6:49 p.m., which would’ve been after sunset on Saturday. LeCounte was unresponsive when police arrived on the scene.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of player he is, it’s one of our players, one of our family members, and when you get news like that, it’s crushing, it’s disheartening, everything just flashes before you,” Smart said. “It was a scary moment. It was a very serious crash and he was very fortunate to have his helmet on and to be where he is now.”

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Georgia released a statement on Sunday updating LeCounte’s status.

“Richard LeCounte was injured in a motor-vehicle accident Saturday evening in Athens,” the statement said. “He was transported to Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center where he was treated in the trauma center. He is still in the hospital for further medical care. His injuries are not life-threatening and a full recovery is expected.

“We would like to thank the emergency medical technicians, physicians, nurses, and other medical personnel who helped care for Richard.  Richard’s family would also like to thank everyone for their thoughts, prayers and well-wishes during this time.”

LeCounte had 13 tackles, three pass break-ups and a fumble recovery in Saturday’s win over Kentucky. He was voted First Team All-SEC in the preseason and was leading Georgia in interceptions with three. For the Kentucky game, LeCounte had been named the SEC defensive player of the week.

As far as replacing LeCounte, much of it will depend on the health of Cine, who left Saturday’s game with an ankle injury. Smart did say that he expects Cine to be able to go, though it will depend on how it progresses over the week. He was replaced in the game by junior Christopher Smith. If Cine is able to play, expect to see a lot of Cine and Smith, as the latter also replaced LeCounte when he missed the second half of the Auburn game due to a targeting ejection.

“Chris [Smith] has played a lot for us,” Smart said. “Richard came out of the one game for targeting, and then he came in and played for Lewis the other day. We feel like Chris has gotten a lot of experience. Chris works really hard in practice and he is ready to play.”

If Cine isn’t able to go, Georgia could possibly move either Mark Webb or Tyrique Stevenson from the Star position to the safety spot. Georgia does cross-train across the secondary and the Star does at times function as a safety depending on the situation. Webb and Stevenson both also have significant playing experience, though neither offers what LeCounte does.

The Bulldogs could also turn to either junior Latavious Brini or freshman Major Burns if the Bulldogs are really pressed at the position.

Florida has a strong passing attack led by the likes of quarterback Kyle Trask, tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Kadarius Toney. When Georgia faced Alabama, the secondary struggled as Alabama quarterback Mac Jones threw for 417 yards and four touchdown passes. The LeCounte injury puts a bigger onus on Georgia’s corners and pass rush to impact the game.

The Bulldogs did have four sacks against Kentucky and lead the conference in that category.

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