Off week has Gators injury free

Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 28, 2002 at 10:51 p.m.
While injuries have taken a sizeable bite out of Georgia in the past week, it appears the Florida Gators will be close to full strength for Saturday night's game in Jacksonville.
All-SEC safety Todd Johnson, who missed the Auburn game with a deep thigh bruise, returned to practice Monday and worked at full speed and will be in the starting lineup Saturday.
"It felt better (today) than I thought it would," Johnson said. "I'm good to go."
Johnson is one of UF's defensive leaders and a player who had never missed a game due to injury before the Auburn game.
"It helps (having him back) in a whole lot of ways," defensive coordinator John Thompson said. "Just the aura he has, looking at him out there coming on and off the field is big."
Quarterback Rex Grossman also said he is now completely healthy after playing with a sprained knee in the Auburn game. He continues to practice with a brace on his right knee.
"I'm feeling 100 percent," Grossman said. "Every once in a while I feel it, but I don't think it's going to bother me. I was a little cautious (in the Auburn game)."
Defensive end Marcus Oquendo-Johnson appears ready to return from a sprained ankle that knocked him out of the past two games. Oquendo-Johnson ran in practice without any apparent difficulty Monday.
"He's not 100 percent, but he's close," UF coach Ron Zook said. "He ran tonight and that's the first thing. I was impressed with the way he ran. He was running right in the front in his group.
"The time off has helped everybody." The injury news is not as positive for the undefeated Bulldogs.
Georgia will be without wide receiver and punt return specialist Damien Gary for Saturday night's game. Gary underwent emergency surgery Sunday to treat muscle damage in the lower part of his left leg and likely is out for the season. He remained in the hospital Monday and will require more surgery.
Gary suffered pain, swelling, numbness and weakness in his leg after last weekend's game against Kentucky.
Doctors said he suffers from acute compartment syndrome, which occurs when a muscle tear bleeds and puts pressure on the membrane that contains the muscle. The pressure decreases blood flow and impairs nerve function.
Gary has returned 27 punts for 410 yards this season for an average of 15.2 yards. He has caught four touchdown passes and returned one punt for a TD.
The 'Dogs also could be without standout wide receiver Fred Gibson, who has a torn ligament in his left thumb and is not expected to practice this week. He's considered doubtful for Saturday's game.
Meanwhile, two other key starters - offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb and tailback Musa Smith - are expected to play Saturday even though they will be limited this week in practice.
Stinchcomb missed the Kentucky game with a knee injury and is considered probable for Saturday's game. Smith missed the UK game with a fractured thumb, but is supposed to play Saturday night with a soft cast on his hand.
  • GAFFNEY PAYS A VISIT: Former star wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, a rookie with the Houston Texans, dropped by at the end of practice Monday to talk to the coaches and some of his former teammates.
    Gaffney, who played a role in the Texans' win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, predicted the Gators will win Saturday night's game in the same stadium.
    "I think they're going to go out there and win," he said. "They look like they're focused and have their heads on straight.
    "Georgia knows they can't win when they play Florida. They've still got that in the back of their minds. They haven't won this game in a long time (1997). Everyone around here knows we're going to beat Georgia."
  • BEHAVE, FANS: Florida officials and ESPN have taken steps to promote sportsmanship and safety for Saturday night's game in Jacksonville.
    Athletic Director Jeremy Foley and Zook have composed a letter to Gator fans encouraging good behavior. ESPN has produced a 30-second message from Chris Fowler encouraging responsible behavior. The message will be used on video boards at both schools and on ESPN Radio in Jacksonville.
  • GROSSMAN A CAPTAIN: Zook announced that the team captains for Saturday night's game are quarterback Rex Grossman, senior middle linebacker Bam Hardmon and long snapper Casey Griffith.
  • THIS AND THAT: Senior wide receiver Taylor Jacobs continues to lead the SEC in receptions and receiving yards per game. He is averaging 7.1 catches and 113.1 yards receiving yards a game. Jacobs has caught 57 passes for 905 yards. ... Grossman remains last in the SEC in passing with an efficiency rating of 116.7. Georgia's David Greene is second with a rating of 141.6. Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen leads the SEC with a rating of 145.9.
    You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at or by calling (352) 374-5022.
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