Georgia football players warned to stay safe, be smart on spring break

Spring break beckons for Georgia’s football players.

The hope this time around is that some won’t get into any off-field trouble during the time away.

Georgia held its final practice Thursday before the school’s spring break.

The Bulldogs won’t return to the field again until March 19, and this time players and coaches don’t want to make any news in the next 11 days.

“Coach already warned us and we had a couple of leaders tell us be careful and be responsible,” inside linebacker Ramik Wilson said this week.

Georgia dealt with distractions last year brought about by a spring break in which safety Bacarri Rambo and cornerback Branden Smith got in trouble in separate marijuana-related incidents.

Rambo had his second violation of Georgia’s drug testing policy (a four-game suspension). His high school coach said Rambo unknowingly ate brownies laced with marijuana during a spring break trip to Panama City, Fla.

Smith was arrested for possession of marijuana during a traffic stop in Alabama en route to Panama City, but was not suspended after he completed a pre-trial diversion program and said he tested negative for marijuana in university-administered and court-ordered tests.

Former Georgia and NFL offensive lineman Steve Herndon spoke to the team before Thursday’s practice about making good choices, coach Mark Richt said.

Herndon left the NFL after a battle with drug addiction and owns the recovery residence Safety Net in Smyrna, according to the official website of the Denver Broncos alumni association.

Richt, speaking before Thursday’s practice, said each position coach “would say his piece. I’ll say my piece after practice or I’ll continue it from this meeting we had earlier today.”

With Georgia opening the season against a rugged schedule that includes Clemson and South Carolina, suspensions this year could be especially costly.

“The biggest message we’re telling our guys is, ‘Hey, don’t do anything stupid, don’t hurt the team or hurt your chances to play in two awesome games,” quarterback Aaron Murray said.

Spring break also brought trouble in 2010 when quarterback Zach Mettenberger was arrested at a bar near Valdosta on five misdemeanor charges and was later dismissed from the team after pleading guilty to two counts of misdemeanor sexual battery.

Not everyone is hitting the beach with buddies.

Murray is spending the week in Norman, Okla., working with quarterback guru George Whitfield.

Wilson is going home to “chill” with his mother and nieces and nephews at home in Tampa.

“Aaron Murray and Artie Lynch — those guys said do the right thing, and if you have any trouble, walk away from trouble and call a teammate,” Wilson said. “A teammate will come get you and get you out of there. Just be smart.”

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