Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Football [Print without images]

Monday, October 27, 2003
Bryant has neck surgery, lost for season


ATLANTA -- Georgia has lost another key player to a season-ending injury.

Cornerback Decory Bryant had neck surgery Sunday morning that will end his season and leaves his NFL future in doubt, the seventh starter or top backup lost to a season-ending injury for the fourth-ranked Bulldogs this season.

Bryant was hurt on a kickoff return in the third quarter of Saturday's 16-13 win over Alabama-Birmingham in Athens. Bryant walked off the field. Though he did not return to the game, the severity of the injury surprised Georgia coaches.

"It does surprise me because of the end result, but that he was tough enough to walk off, no, that doesn't surprise me because he has played tough like that for three years," Georgia assistant coach Willie Martinez said Monday.

Martinez said he visited Bryant on Monday at St. Mary's Hospital in Athens.

"He's going to be fine," Martinez said, adding that he could not release specifics about Bryant's injury "because those are his family's wishes."

A woman who identified herself as Bryant's mother answered the phone at his hospital room Monday and declined comment.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that two Georgia athletic department officials, who asked not to be identified, said Bryant had a rod inserted in his neck after breaking the third and fourth vertebrae in his neck and stretching his spine.

Though Bryant didn't lose any feeling in his limbs, the Georgia officials told the paper the injury likely would end his playing career.

Martinez said sophomore Tim Jennings would start for Bryant in Saturday's game against No. 23 Florida in Jacksonville. Senior Kenny Bailey, a converted tailback, will play the nickel-back role that had been held by Jennings.

This is the second time this season Martinez has had to juggle his secondary. Another senior, safety Kentrell Curry, was lost for the season with a stress fracture in his leg discovered in the preseason drills.

Georgia's defense made a smooth transition after losing Curry when Thomas Davis moved from linebacker to safety.

The defense also has lost starting outside linebacker Will Thompson (ankle) and defensive tackle Kedric Golston (shoulder) to season-ending injuries.

Georgia also has lost starting tailback Tony Milton (leg), backup quarterback D.J. Shockley (knee) and backup receiver Cedric Haywood (knee) to season-ending injuries.

Top receiver Fred Gibson has missed the last two games with a knee injury that has him listed as doubtful this week.

Several more starters, including defensive end David Pollack, offensive guards Josh Brock and Bartley Miller, fullbacks Jeremy Thomas and Jamario Smith and defensive tackle Ray Gant are listed as questionable this week with injuries.

The injuries seem to have taken an effect as Georgia (7-1) struggled the last two weeks to take narrow victories over Vanderbilt and Alabama-Birmingham.