Bliss struggles through pain for Dawgs

ATHENS – Dave Bliss grew up in Wausau, Wis. It's a city of fewer than 40,000 folks who are mostly of Polish and German descent, and the average high temperature in the month of January is 20 degrees. It's 100 miles from Green Bay, Wis., where legendary Packers quarterback Brett Favre has started 223 consecutive games, more than any NFL quarterback.

In short, they like tough guys in Wausau, Wis., and Bliss could be there shining son.

Georgia's sophomore center, against all odds, has started all 47 games of his collegiate career. Last year, Bliss was battling merely being an undersized and out-talented freshman in the SEC. This year, his impediments have gotten even greater.

Since last spring, Bliss has battled a herniated disc in his lower back. It's the top disc in the lower section of his spine. He can't remember what it's called, and he doesn't care.

"You guys know the deal," he said. "It's something that I deal with, but it's not a big deal."

Actually, it is. Dave Bliss has missed more than half of Georgia's practice time since the beginning of the season. Only three times this season has he been able to play 20 or more minutes in a game, and he's never gone higher than 27.

Still, he's a stalwart in the starting lineup and plays harder than any of his teammates and as hard as any player in the nation.

"Going into this year, I thought he was going to be one of our most improved players, and I still feel that way," Coach Dennis Felton said. "He just doesn't have a chance to show it because he's been playing in pain all season. He's in discomfort all the time, whether he's playing or not."

As the Bulldogs (12-7, 2-4 SEC) enter today's 3 p.m. game against Auburn (8-8, 0-5) in Auburn, Bliss is coming off back-to-back double digit scoring games, which constitutes quite a roll for him. He didn't manage 10 points in a game until last week's win over Ole Miss, the 18th game of the season.

He scored a team-best 12 against LSU on Wednesday, but this doesn't mark a turnaround, his coach said.

"We don't have any reason to believe he's going to get to feeling any better this year," Felton said. "I'm only hopeful that he might have a chance to get it straightened out between this season and next season, but I don't know how that's going to turn out."

Bliss, who suffers such pain that he can no longer sleep lying on his stomach, has said he will return to the team next year, but he doesn't know what he'll have to do to make that happen.

"There are some more tests they can do that are painful, and there are things where you have to sit out a while and not be active," he said. "We might look into some of that after the season is over. I don't even know what it would be."

For now, Bliss relies on a variety of methods to give him any relief he can get. He's taken pain pills, had two cortisone shots since the season began, alternated hot and cold compresses on the injured area, hauled around an electric stimulation machine and stretched more than a dancer.

"Whatever they've got," he said.

The people of Wausau would be proud.

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