Georgia running back James Cook was cleared to play in the Sugar Bowl, coach Kirby Smart announced Friday afternoon when the team arrived here at the Louis Armstrong International Airport.
According to an Athens-Clarke County police report, Cook admitted to police officers that he was smoking marijuana shortly before he was pulled over by officers in a traffic stop early in the morning of Dec. 14.
However, Georgia said Friday that Cook tested negative for marijuana, so he was not subject to an athletic-department policy that would have led to a suspension of at least one game if he had tested positive.
“James Cook is cleared to play,” Smart said after arriving at the airport. “We don’t discuss details publicly usually, but we thoroughly reviewed the situation and, in compliance with our drug policy, we tested him immediately after he had an arrest. The test was negative, and James is cleared to play. It’s that simple.
“I’m not proud of his behavior, and he’s suffered some discipline for what he did, and that's done. So James is cleared to play and that should be updated.”
Cook has rushed for 176 yards on 28 carries this season, an average of 6.3 yards per carry, and has scored two touchdowns. He has played in all 13 games and started in three of them.
The No. 5 Bulldogs are in New Orleans to face No. 7 Baylor on Jan. 1 in the Sugar Bowl. Each team lost Dec. 7 in its respective conference championship game -- Georgia (11-2) losing 37-10 to LSU and Baylor (11-2) losing 30-23 in overtime to Oklahoma.
“It's a one-game season for us,” Smart said. “It’s like a new season, and it’s a one-game season. We’re focused on the trip, the team and the game. Those are the only things we’re focused on, most importantly.”
Smart also said that wide receiver Kearis Jackson is still recovering from high-ankle sprain he suffered in the SEC Championship game.
“He has not been able to completely practice,” Smart said. “He’s running straight line and doing some good things, but he hasn't been full-go. We hope to get him full speed this week.”
Smart said that running back D’Andre Swift has been slowly progressing from the shoulder injury that limited his playing time against LSU, steadily participating more in practices, especially the past two.
“We’re hoping he’s going to be able to go at 100 percent for the game,” Smart said. “He wants to play in the game, so if he’s able to go 100 percent, he’ll be able to play.
“The standard is you’re going to come compete and play, and if you aren’t up to that standard, then you aren’t going to be here. It’s important that our guys understand that. D’Andre’s embraced that. D’Andre says I have a role as a captain. I want to be there to support the team, I want to be there to play, I want to be there to help.”
Starting offensive lineman Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson announced earlier that they would skip the Sugar Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft. Thomas projects as a likely top-five piLike our Facebook page ck.
Smart said he prefers to keep the focus on the players who made the trip, not those who didn’t.
“We’re going to focus on the guys that are here,” Smart said, “and you’re going to see that firsthand tomorrow (during Georgia’s first practice in New Orleans). We’re excited about the ones that are here.”
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