ATHENS, Ga. – The first bit of chaos in what had been a quiet offseason for Georgia became official Saturday with the announcement that three players had violated team rules and would miss the start of the 2009 season.
Tight end Bruce Figgins earned a six-game suspension and defensive end Justin Houston will miss the first two games of the year, while wide receiver Tony Wilson’s career with Georgia may be done.
The school did not issue further details on what rules the players broke, but there was no reported legal trouble for any of them.
"I'm very disappointed in the poor judgment of these players," head coach Mark Richt said in a statement released by the school. "They'll have to pay an appropriate price and I'm confident they will learn an important lesson from their mistake."
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The story had been widely reported last week, but Richt refused to immediately comment.
The suspensions are the first of this offseason, but follow a year in which nearly a dozen players missed time or were removed from the program for off-field incidents. Richt had hoped to avoid similar incidents in 2009, discussing a new detail-oriented philosophy that promised punishment for even minor infractions. The violations by Wilson, Houston and Figgins, however, warranted significant consequences.
For Figgins, a former Shaw standout, this is his second violation, which could explain the hefty suspension. The junior tight end was benched for Georgia’s opener last season, again for an unnamed team rules violation.
Houston, a third-year sophomore, was being counted on as a key cog on the Bulldogs’ defensive line. By the end of spring practice, he was the only healthy defensive end Georgia had with game experience. His improvement during the spring was noticeable and garnered praise from his coaches.
Wilson played sparingly in 2008 after suffering a severe ankle injury last spring. He spent the latter half of the season sidelined and appeared to be making strides toward returning to full speed in time for the start of the 2009 season.
Instead, his career could be finished. In the statement released by the school, Wilson was said to be “in the process of being medically disqualified from competition,” which negated any punishment for his rules violation.
The numerous off-field problems plagued Georgia a year ago, even as the team began the season with a No. 1 ranking in the polls.
Snapper Jeff Hensen was arrested on alcohol-related charges in the week prior to Georgia’s Sugar Bowl victory, while fullback Fred Munzenmaier and offensive tackle Clint Boling also landed in legal trouble and began the season on suspension.
Offensive linemen Trinton Sturdivant and Justin Anderson were arrested on assault charges which were eventually dropped, but defensive end Michael Lemon, who also was charged with assault in a separate incident, was dismissed from the team. Just days before the team opened fall practice, three players were involved in incidents that resulted in a suspension for linebacker Darius Dewberry and dismissals for Donavon Baldwin and Hensen.