ATHENS — One of the unknowns about the Georgia football team and its defense for 2018 has been the status of Natrez Patrick. A starter when healthy and eligible, it has been unclear whether the talented linebacker would still be on the team after legal issues and a trip to an inpatient treatment facility.
For now, the answer appears to be yes. Patrick is enrolled in spring classes at UGA and plans to be with the team in 2018, his lawyer confirmed Tuesday.
“Natrez is doing very well in his treatment,” Billy Healan said in a text message. “He is enrolled in classes this semester. He is still on the football team and is looking forward to the upcoming season.”
Patrick was not with the team for the College Football Playoff run. He did not take the trip to the Rose Bowl, and he didn’t suit up for the National Championship Game, although he was on the sideline for the game.
Patrick entered the treatment facility in Augusta in mid-December as part of an agreement reached with Athens-Clarke County stemming from a probation violation for a marijuana arrest earlier that year.
It’s unclear whether Patrick, assuming he remains with the team, will face any additional suspensions for the 2018 season. He served a four-game suspension during the 2017 season for a second violation of the UGA student-athlete drug policy, and a third violation means automatic dismissal. But a revision of the policy made last year allows for some leeway, according to Ron Courson, associate athletics director for sports medicine.
Healan reiterated that he believes Patrick should be eligible.
“From a legal perspective and according to the UGA Athletic Association substance abuse policy, I believe he should be eligible. I still stand by that opinion I gave you previously,” Healan said, adding: “As for playing time, that is obviously up to the coaches. They don’t usually consult a player’s lawyer on that issue.”
In nine games in the 2017 season, Patrick had 35 tackles, including 2.5 for loss and 3 quarterback pressures. He was second on the team in tackles as a sophomore, behind only Roquan Smith. In 30 games at Georgia, 18 of which Patrick has started, he has 116 tackles, 2 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.
Patrick’s return would bolster a defense that is losing all four linebackers who started in the playoff, plus four more starters and defensive lineman Trenton Thompson. Patrick likely would return to a starting role at inside linebacker, with rising sophomore Monty Rice and rising senior Juwan Taylor also candidates to start. Rice and Taylor each started a game last season.