Kearney to miss season with surgery

ATHENS — Georgia freshman linebacker Tavares Kearney has decided to have knee surgery that will end his first college season before it starts, his mother said Thursday.

"We had it drained once already, so I think it's important to go ahead have the surgery done," Wanda Smith told The Telegraph. "He's probably going to be redshirted, but his health is more important to me than anything."

Kearney has cartilage damage in his knee that has resulted in bone rubbing against bone when he bends his knee, Coach Mark Richt said whenhe first disclosed the injury Monday. Kearney and the Bulldogs considered trying to rehabilitate the injury without surgery, but, after receiving a second opinion from a doctor in Atlanta, Tavares Kearney and his mother decided to operate, Smith said.

"He's quiet about it, but he's mad," she said. "He knows it's the best thing to do. This morning when I spoke with him he seemed in pretty good spirits. We're fine with it. We can get it done and move forward."

Kearney, who already has made headlines in Athens due to a confrontation with a teaching assistant that led to a one-game suspension, was considered the 26th-best linebacker in the country last year coming out of Tucker High School.

Richt said during the first week of practice that he expected Kearney to play as a true freshman. Richt, who was not available for comment Wednesday, has not said if Kearney's suspension will carry over to next season.

"We were at the scrimmage Saturday and one of the coaches came out and said, ‘That boy is a beast,'" Smith said. "They smoothed it over so he'd feel good about it, but they were excited to have Tavares playing."

Kearney's injury is similar to one suffered by quarterback D.J. Shockley, who had his surgically repaired in October 2003 and was not cleared for live action work until the next fall. Kearney's surgery is expected to be Tuesday.

"I'm calling to call Shockley's parents just so I'll know what to look forward to," Smith said.

Kearney will become the seventh player from the Bulldogs' 19-man signing class who won't be able to contribute this year for one reason or another.

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