UGA backfield fighting through injuries

UGA running back Sony Michel

Almost forgotten in the wake of his 165-yard rushing performance against Kentucky was the fact that tailback Sony Michel was playing the game with a broken right hand. The sophomore from Fort Lauderdale simply carried the football in his left, non-dominant hand. And besides one play in which he fumbled the ball out of bounds just before he stepped out on the sideline, Michel did not experience any setbacks as a result.

“I forgot about it to be honest,” said Michel, who now has 715 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns on the season. I couldn’t use it as an excuse for fumbling or any reason for not performing well. So I just went out there and forgot about it and played for my team.”

To be clear, while Michel’s injury – a fractured bone in the middle of his hand – is not what would be described as serious, it could have prevented him from playing. He suffered it on the first play from scrimmage against Florida. But despite missing the next few plays in that game, Michel has practiced and played ever since.

What’s more, he’s doing it while taking several shotgun snaps out of the “Wild Dog” formation.

Sony Michel, coming off a 165-yard rushing performance against Kentucky, said he pretty much forgot about his broken right hand. AJC / JOSHUA L. JONES

“My team and my teammates, that’s what I do it for,” Michel said. “I could have easily just said, ‘no, I can’t play. My hand’s broken and I can’t play now more because it’s hurting.’ But you’ve got to forget about that and play for the guy next to you.”

Speaking of playing hurt, such an attitude got Christian Payne into some trouble earlier this season. The sophomore fullback from Athens suffered a broken leg the second week of preseason camp but came back in just four weeks and played in the Bulldogs’ second game of the season against Vanderbilt. He aggravated the injury in the next game against South Carolina and then had to sit out another six weeks.

“I pretty much told the trainers how I felt and I felt ready to go,” Payne said Monday. “It just happened again and I had to go through the whole process again. We played it a little more cautiously the second time.”

Make no mistake about it: Georgia suffered in Payne’s absence. The 6-foot-1, 232-pound former walkon won the starting job in spring practice and is by far the Bulldogs’ best lead blocker. It’s no coincidence that UGA ran for 300 yards this past Saturday.

Having to sit out while his team struggled in the interim was difficult for Payne.

“It was frustrating,” he said. “But we have a great training staff here and I felt at ease that they were going to get me back on the field. It feels great now.”

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