More than three and a half months ago, Dominick Blaylock lay sprawled out on the Mercedes-Benz Stadium field with what turned out to be a torn ACL in his left knee.


The injury in the SEC championship game in Atlanta ended the promising wide receiver’s freshman season, but left him ample time to make a recovery in time for the 2020 season.



That rehab came under the watchful eye of Georgia director of sports medicine Ron Courson and staff in Athens until recently.


The novel coronavirus pandemic shut down spring practice at Georgia before it began and with classes now only online, players like Blaylock are working to come back from injuries in their hometowns.


"At this point, our medical facilities are closed," Courson said through a UGA athletics spokesman. "We are communicating regularly with our student-athletes and coordinating medical care as needed on an individual basis, whether that be home programs developed specifically for them or arrangements in their hometown. Our sports medicine staff is available to help coordinate any medical needs our student-athletes may have during this period."


Michael Bennett knows what Blaylock is going through.


He was in the same spot in the spring of 2013, coming back from a torn ACL sustained the previous season. His knee injury came in a practice on Oct. 2, 2012, two months earlier in the football season than Blaylock was injured.


Bennett was Georgia’s leading receiver at that point of the season with 24 catches for 345 yards and 4 touchdowns for a Bulldog team that went on to play for the SEC championship, falling five yards short against Alabama.


"It would be tough if you didn’t have facilities to go to," said Bennett, who remembers using a rehab machine at Georgia that helped him in his recovery. "I would say it would be a lot more tough if he was early in his rehab because there’s a lot more stuff that you do on the front end equipment specific to ACL rehab. …If he’s got access to any machines that you can find at any typical gym, I think he should be able to do what he needs to be able to do."


Blaylock, who did not suffer any other damage to his knee, is running now, using a treadmill and even catching balls.


Other Georgia players with less significant injuries also would be working with the Georgia training staff at this time of year. Offensive lineman Justin Shaffer is coming back from a sprained neck.


Defensive lineman Julian Rochester redshirted last season following his own ACL injury, but played in the Sugar Bowl. Cornerback Tyson Campbell was limited to nine games last season while dealing with a turf toe. Tight end Ryland Goede and offensive lineman Owen Conden were believed to be dealing with injuries during Sugar Bowl practices.


"It’s like anything if you don’t have the drive and you don’t do the work, it’s not going to happen," Bennett said. "Everyone’s dealing with this coronavirus so you’re having to make differences with what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis. For (Blaylock) or anyone rehabbing at this point, it’s what do I need to do to adapt to still get the work I need to get in."


SEC commissioner Greg Sankey noted last week that the spread of COVID-19 which prompted the league to cancel all remaining athletic competition for the academic year "changed the foundation of our student athlete’s lives. We’ve heard much about time demands, but the regularity of that schedule in many ways can be an asset, and we continue to provide medical care where needed."


Bennett watched a documentary on Showtime on NFL wide receiver Julian Edelman who returned from a season-ending ACL tear in 2017.


"Nobody’s going to force you to do it, especially right now when you don’t have anyone watching over you," Bennett said. "Some of the guys I remember playing with if they didn’t have anyone with an eagle eye over them, they were going to slack off. Those guys aren’t going to make it in the end. Just bottom line."


Bennett tore the ACL in his other knee in the Belk Bowl as a senior at the end of the 2014 season and spent the months after rehabbing with star running back Todd Gurley who was coming back from his own ACL injury.


"That guy worked harder than anybody," Bennett said. "That’s why he made it. That’s why he was a first-round draft pick because he didn’t cut corners."


Blaylock, who played at Walton High in Marietta, had 18 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns last season. If the 2020 football season isn’t affected by the coronavirus, Georgia would open on Sept. 7 in Atlanta against Virginia.


"I’m sure Dom is a hard-working kid and is going to do what needs to be done," Bennett said. "Ron and his staff are the best in the country. I’m sure they’re going to have a program for him to do on his own when they can’t watch over him. It’s going to be up to him to do the work."