Replays show Georgia defender might have embellished injury to slow Clemson offense; Richt denies gamesmanship
CLEMSON — Every time a Georgia defensive player stayed flat on the field with an injury against Clemson on Saturday night, the Death Valley crowd roared its disapproval. If the Bulldogs player left the field without help from trainers, the boos only got louder.
The term is flopping, most famous in soccer and basketball, and there’s been some concern it could bleed over to football if a defense wishes to slow down a fast-tempo opposing offense and disrupt its rhythm.
On the Tigers’ second drive of their 38-35 victory, Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd needed attention from the trainers, which stopped the clock. Even though Clemson ended the possession with a touchdown on quarterback Tajh Boyd’s 4-yard run, some film review a day later raised eyebrows.
Caught clearly by ABC cameras, Floyd was trotting toward the sideline after a Boyd 4-yard run to Georgia’s 40-yard-line on first down. He appeared to be nursing something with his left arm, though his back was away from the camera.
Floyd waved to the sideline, looking for a replacement. Then he paused for a beat, turned around, took one step, and crumpled to the ground.
“You know, I don’t know. I’ve seen that clip — somebody sent that to me today,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said on Sunday’s day-after teleconference with reporters. “I’ll let them speak on that stuff, but I’m not worried about all that. We’ve just got to execute and worry about doing our job. I don’t try to get into second-guessing that stuff.”
Georgia head coach Mark Richt was asked specifically about the play in question, and had an opinion ready.
“When a guy is injured, he needs to just stay down and not try to drag himself (off the field),” Richt said on his Sunday teleconference. “In the past, you’d say,‘Hey, be brave and be tough’, but when you’re doing that, you’re giving the other team the advantage. So if you’re hurt, just stay down until the officials stop play and come off the field.”
So what was Floyd’s injury?
“He got hit in his privates real hard,” Richt said. “Actually, it was a leg whip — I don’t think it was intentional, but it was like a cross body-block, and the leg kind of kicked up and got him. He was trying to figure out what to do there, but he would have been better off not trying to play the next snap.”
Richt was referring to the previous play (Boyd’s 9-yard completion to Sammy Watkins for a first down), when Tigers tailback Roderick McDowell clearly did much of what Richt described in pass protection.
However, McDowell’s leg whip didn’t land directly on Floyd, and cameras showed that after Floyd tried to crawl after Boyd during his throwing motion, the Bulldogs’ freshman appeared to get up, not too quickly, but not particularly slowly or painfully, either.
In the time between McDowell picking himself up and the time Floyd collapsed to the ground causing an official timeout — when teammate Damian Swann tapped Floyd on the shoulder on his way down — Floyd was on his feet for 32 seconds.
“He was injured,” Richt said. “If a guy is injured now, we just tell them stay down and don’t come off until they stop play.”
In the offseason, the ACC instituted a new rule that if a player was hurt and the clock was stopped in the final minute of a half — possibly to save time — the opposing team has the option of a 10-second runoff.
But no such guidelines were addressed to pump the brakes on an offense flying in fifth gear.
Swinney reiterated his comments last Tuesday that if a player’s hurt, he should remain on the field and safely receive the proper medical attention.
“But if you’re really not injured and you’re just having guys go down, that kind of gets into the ethics in the game,” Swinney said.
“I’m just more concerned with how we play.”