The Florida Gators' good news is that they expect to resume football activities Monday following a COVID-19 spike.
The bad news is that their return will bring more challenges as the number of positive coronavirus tests continues to rise.
“Hopefully we’re back Monday at this point, moving forward,” coach Dan Mullen said Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference. “We won’t be at full capacity as a team, but we feel pretty comfortable that our numbers would be to the point where we could play the game (against Missouri on Oct. 31).”
Until then, the Gators will continue working remotely, as they have since they shut down the program on Oct. 13. Mullen said they followed the NFL model of closing everything down to try to stop the virus' spread.
“We’ve used this whole time to completely close the program to get back to zero positive tests,” Mullen said.
It hasn’t quite worked. Mullen said Tuesday’s tests revealed another positive. Since Oct. 13, UF has had at least 25 players and two assistants test positive, plus Mullen.
Although Mullen didn’t sound like himself Wednesday, he said he’s doing fine and that the majority of those infected have had “very minor symptoms.” He’s isolating from his family at home and working on game preparation and recruiting from his bedroom and its adjoining office.
Once UF does return, it will face a different set of issues. The Gators will have gone two full weeks without practicing, so they’ll have to build back up cautiously … while preparing for a game that’s only five days away. At least some players will be unable to participate because of the virus or quarantining. It’s unclear how close they’ll be to the SEC’s minimum threshold of 53 available scholarship players.
Mullen said he hasn’t given much thought to what would happen if the Gators aren’t to return Monday and how much practice time they’ll require before kickoff.
“We’d figure it out,” Mullen said. “We’ll find a way.”
Mullen also reiterated what athletic director Scott Stricklin said last week — that the trip to Texas A&M for the Oct. 10 game probably fueled the outbreak.
One or two players experienced allergy-like symptoms beforehand without telling anyone. From there, Mullen said the virus could have spread on the flight, in hotel rooms, at the pre-game meal or in a visiting locker room that’s not as spacious as the one at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
“I think it definitely happened with the trip,” Mullen said. “I don’t think it was one specific aspect of the trip.”
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