ATHENS — It’s almost laughable now when Nick Chubb says he’s not sure whether or not he’ll play in Georgia’s first game. He said it again Wednesday night after the Bulldogs’ practice, the team’s 16th of the preseason. It was Chubb’s 16th as well.
No, Chubb hasn’t missed a practice or a rep for that matter. That’s pretty extraordinary considering whether he would even practice with the team during preseason camp was a question earlier this summer.
This past Saturday, Chubb was tackled live for the first time since Oct. 10th of last year when he went one direction and his left knee went another up in Knoxville. Getting over the hurdle of actually being taken to the ground was big one for Chubb.
“The hard part was mentally,” said Chubb, conducting his second interview of preseason camp. “So it just took getting that first hit. After that I was, like, ‘I’m ready, let’s go.'”
And away Chubb went. In a scrimmage in which he got “seven or eight carries,” according to head coach Kirby Smart, Chubb scored two touchdowns.
But first, there had to be that tackle. Johnny O’Neal, a senior linebacker from Dublin, got the honor of putting the first hit on Chubb. And it was a pretty good one, by all accounts.
“The minute it happened I was making sure my body wasn’t bending any other ways,” Chubb said, letting loose a pretty good chuckle.
Another test, another passing grade.
There have been other high marks as well. For instance, Chubb proclaimed in no uncertain terms that he is just as fast as he was before the injury, which tore every ligament in his left knee but the ACL. He knows because he said he has outrun some of Georgia’s fastest defenders when they had an angle on him.
Chubb claims his cutting ability is just as good as well. If he has any complaint it’s with that bothersome knee brace that they’re making him wear. But he says he has about gotten used to that now.
As for swelling or soreness after a hard day on the practice, Chubb said, “Not at all. I actually feel better now.”
Even the wily Smart has a hard time downplaying Chubb’s availability for the first game.
“It’s pointing in that direction,” he said on 680 The Fan’s Front Row radio show Wednesday morning.
And now, as the Bulldogs move into a 17-day window of the season opener against North Carolina in the Georgia Dome, there is a growing sense of excitement.
“As you’ve seen, Nick hasn’t missed a beat,” senior tackle Greg Pyke said Wednesday. “He’s pretty much better, faster, stronger. That kid is one of the hardest working people in this building. He’s a funny dude, too. And he’s working to be out there with us.”
Asked to assess the new Nick versus the old Nick, Pyke laughed. “He looks like he’s full speed. He looks even faster. It’s nice to see when you make a nice block and everyone on the offensive line looks up and sees the back of number 27’s jersey.”
Nevertheless, Chubb refuses to proclaim himself first-game ready. After what he’s been through the last 10 months, he now knows that he’s truly not invincible.
“It’s still a day-by-day process, so I just take it day-by-day,” he said in front of a media throng. “I feel good. We’re doing a lot of things to help my knee out. Getting tackled a couple of times, that helps. But you just never know until that day comes.”
That day comes on Sept. 3.