Notre Dame's ground game will be a little bit lighter for its season finale as junior tailback George Atkinson III is one of two Fighting Irish players suspended for Saturday's Pinstripe Bowl. Per the school's director of football media relations, Michael Bertsch:
Brian Kelly has announced that junior RB George Atkinson III and junior CB Jalen Brown will not play today due to a violation of team rules.— Michael Bertsch (@NDsidBertschy) December 28, 2013
Brown was a deep reserve who hasn't registered a tackle since 2012. Atkinson, meanwhile, racked up 555 yards on the season and averaged six yards per carry, but his playing time waned over the year in a crowded backfield.
The announcement was made only a few hours before kickoff, and Atkinson indicated in a now-deleted tweet that the decision happened at a recent meal:
Now, a couple important things need to be said here. For one, the truth value of this claim is impossible to ascertain. All Notre Dame is claiming is a violation of team rules, and there's a pretty big difference between "Guy says he was suspended for Reason X" and "Guy suspended for Reason X." Further, Atkinson took the statement down shortly thereafter, so for whatever reason he's not even standing behind it publicly himself. And we don't know if Brown's suspension was related in any way.
It's worth noting, per JJ Stankevitz of CSN Chicago, that Atkinson has also submitted evaluation paperwork for the 2014 NFL draft. So it's possible we've already seen the last of Atkinson in a Notre Dame uniform, particularly if he sees the writing on the wall about playing time next year, as true freshman Tarean Folston has emerged as the top tailback in the Notre Dame backfield and will start the Pinstripe Bowl.