ATHENS — A most unlikely person came to the defense of Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was suspended for half a game for apparently trying to gouge the eyes of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey
Ealey said Tuesday he doesn't believe Spikes should have been suspended.
In fact, Ealey seemed surprised the play from Saturday's game drew so much attention.
Florida coach Urban Meyer on Monday suspended Spikes for the first half of this week's game against Vanderbilt after the defensive captain stuck his hand in Ealey's helmet and appeared to try to stick his fingers in Ealey's eyes.
Ealey says he doesn't agree with those who have said the suspension was not stiff enough.
"That really didn't matter to me," Ealey said of the suspension. "That's their decision. He shouldn't, I think, get suspended at all. We were just out there playing football."
Ealey said he had his eyes closed when Spikes stuck his hand in his helmet and he wasn't hurt.
"He really didn't gouge my eyes," Ealey said. "He really didn't get a chance to get close to my eyes."
The freshman said he believes similar incidents happen all the time.
"I'm pretty sure it goes on back and forth," he said. "We probably do it and other teams do too. It's all football. We're just out there trying to have fun."
Top-ranked Florida beat Georgia 41-17. The Bulldogs play Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
On Monday, Spikes issued an apology.
"I accept responsibility for my actions and I accept the consequences of my actions," Spikes said. "I would like to apologize to my team and the coaching staff and Washaun Ealey. Football is a very physical and emotional game, but there is no excuse for my actions."
The Southeastern Conference issued a statement on Monday saying it reviewed and accepted the discipline handed down by Florida.
Meyer said he believed Spikes retaliated after getting his helmet ripped off and eye poked earlier in the game.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Spikes' "helmet went flying off ... and there was one time he got hit with his helmet off."
"It was totally unintentional," Richt said. "They were totally just playing ball. That might have got him bent out of shape. I don't know about all of that."
Ealey carried 17 times for 70 yards against the Gators.
"It was just a lot of emotion in the game," he said. "We were out there fighting. It was a big rivalry game. Everybody was just out there talking trash back and forth. ... We were just out there playing football and having fun."
Notes: Richt said Caleb King will start over Ealey at tailback in Saturday's game against Tennessee Tech. Richt said King has the edge in pass-blocking but said Ealey "will continue to play." Ealey has started the last two games. ... Richt said he hopes top receiver A.J. Green, who will miss this week's game with a pulmonary contusion, can return to play against Auburn on Nov. 14.