Dawgs look to stay out of trouble in Big Easy

NEW ORLEANS – Nearly all of Georgia's players made it to rainy New Orleans on Wednesday without trouble.

The Bulldogs' goal for the rest of the week will be to stay out of it.

That's no simple task in a city known almost as much for its status as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States as for its vibrant nightlife.

"There's a lot of trouble to get into down here," Georgia offensive lineman Chester Adams said. "Like my momma always says, ‘It's easy to get into trouble, but it's hard to get out of it,' so you just have to be careful and be cautious."

Georgia (10-2) held its first practice Wednesday night in preparation for a Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl meeting with Hawaii (12-0). Afterwards, the players were allowed to stay out until a 1 a.m. curfew – a time limit that will grow progressively earlier as the game nears – but there are still restrictions on where the players will be allowed to go.

For instance, they are not allowed to visit Harrah's New Orleans Casino, which sits only a minute's walk away from the Bulldogs' hotel. They are also required to be accompanied by at least one teammate whenever they leave the hotel.

"You definitely want to be on a buddy system," Georgia center Fernando Velasco said. "It's a realdangerous city, so you don't want to go anywhere alone. You want to always try to make sure you've got somebody with you at all times."

The Bulldogs played in the Sugar Bowl just two seasons ago, but this is most team members' first visit to New Orleans. Damage to the Superdome caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 caused the Bulldogs' last Sugar Bowl appearance to be made in Atlanta.

So even the veteran players didn't know exactly whatto expect from the Big Easy, much less the newcomers who are making their first bowl trip, period.

"A lot of guys talk about the experience and how fun it is, places to eat and see, meeting other teams. Everybody says it's fun and I'm looking forward to experiencing all of that," said freshman tight end Bruce Figgins, a Shaw High grad. "I'm ready to try some food that you can really only get from Louisiana."

Enjoying New Orleans cuisine was definitely among many players' goals, as was getting at least one look at the bustling party atmosphere in the French Quarter and Bourbon Street.

"I've seen pictures of New Orleans and I've heard stories about downtown and Bourbon Street and the French Quarter," Velasco said. "I'm gonna go down there and just see it for at least one night, just to see what it's about. But mainly, I'll probably just try to stay away from that."

Georgia coach Mark Richt looked at it from a parent's perspective – his son Jon will be a freshman quarterback at Clemson next year – when he explained his rules for bowl week. He pointed out that the players are old enough to be given a certain level of freedom on their down time and still stay out of trouble.

"I've got a son who a year from now might be in a situation just like this. (As a parent), you want to make sure those coaches are taking as much precaution as possible," Richt said. "But again it's also a timein their lives when they're learning to be a little more independent and make decisions independent of somebody hovering over them at all times."

Some members of Georgia's roster were late arriving in New Orleans because of weather delays or late flights. But by the time the team practiced in the Louisiana Superdome Wednesday evening, everyone was accounted for.

Only snapper Jeff Henson, who is serving a disciplinary suspension after his arrest for driving under the influence last month, failed to make the trip. Now it's up to his teammates to make sure they don't join him on the punishment list.

"We knew that (Henson) wasn't going, but that's it," Richt said. "Let's hope it stays that way."


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