ATHENS — As it turns out, there may have been a reason that Dominick Sanders’ numbers were down last year.
Georgia’s starting safety dealt with a right shoulder injury most of the 2016 season, Sanders said on Saturday, which impacted his ability to make tackles. The injury happened early in the season, and then got worse when Sanders hit Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara on Oct. 1, Georgia’s fifth game of the season.
“Throughout the season it was throbbing, it was bad. Sometimes it got out of place,” Sanders said. “But I told coach, I’m going to play regardless. I’m not worried about the shoulder. I don’t want to see a doctor.”
Sanders later added that the shoulder injury was “very critical, it was to a point where they didn’t want me to play.” But he told coaches that it would require surgery for him to not play, “until they knock (the shoulder) out of place or until it’s hanging.”
Sanders never ended up missing a game, starting each one. But he was taken out for more plays, and there were some notable missed tackles. After recording 48 tackles as a sophomore, when he was named first-team All-SEC, Sanders ended up with 34 tackles last year. His interceptions went from 6 as a sophomore to 3 last year, and his tackles-for-loss went 5 to 1.5.
“Every tackle I was making with that shoulder I made a noise every time,” Sanders said. “But I just told myself that I’m not seeing no doctor. I’m going to keep playing.”
Sanders emphasized that several times. And it wasn’t the only injury he suffered last year: He sprained his MCL during the Florida game on Oct. 29, causing him to leave that game, but returned to play at Kentucky the following week.
Sanders joked (or maybe he wasn’t joking) that if he wasn’t cleared to play that he’d go to Kirby Smart and say: “Tell them, clear me.”
Asked how close it came to that, Sanders said he was taken out of more plays, which his stepfather noticed and pointed out to him.
“They think I’m hurt, and I am, but at the same time in my heart I’m not hurt,” Sanders said. “But the main thing I told coach Smart, I’m going to fight through it all. And that’s what he likes about me. I’m not going to worry about these injuries. Surgery is going to stop from playing. That’s the only thing.”
Sanders said he’s 100 percent now.
G-Day is scheduled for April 22. Georgia’s spring game kicks off at 2 p.m. ET and will be televised on SEC Network.