Kirby Smart: No Georgia Bulldogs currently out because of coronavirus

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart during the Bulldogs practice in Athens, Ga., on Mon., Aug. 17, 2020. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith)
Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart during the Bulldogs practice in Athens, Ga., on Mon., Aug. 17, 2020. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith)

Credit: Chamberlain Smith

Credit: Chamberlain Smith

ATHENS -- Georgia is now within the two-week window of its season-opening game against Arkansas. Always a critical period in preseason football preparations, it is particularly important now in the age of COVID-19.

Players who test positive for the coronavirus now – and others that have been exposed to infected teammates – will have to enter a quarantine period of 14 days. Those players would, of course, miss the Sept. 26 game in Fayetteville.

Coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday night the Bulldogs have no players out at the moment. But as UGA continues to test its athletes two and three times a week, there remains a high probability that players might have to miss.

“I have no clue right now of any for sure outs,” Smart said Tuesday. “We don’t have anybody that is going to be out.”

If that holds up, then Georgia is doing better than a lot of SEC teams. Two weeks ago, Tennessee had to scrap a scheduled scrimmage because 44 players were sidelined either because of positive tests or exposures. Auburn, which plays at Georgia in Week 2, had 10 players miss its scrimmage this past weekend because of “COVID-related issues.” That was after the Tigers had to cancel a practice the previous week because too many players were out.

On Tuesday, LSU coach Ed Orgeron told reporters that “most” of his players had tested positive for the virus at one point or another.

“Hopefully they’re not out for games,” Orgeron said. “Hopefully that once you catch it, you don’t get it again. But I’m not a doctor.”

Later, Orgeron was admonished by LSU Athletic Director Scott Woodward for being “too transparent” and “too forthright.”

As the SEC gets closer to starting its delayed football season next week, vagueness remains the preference. While all 14 football programs are required to report their weekly testing results to the league office, the SEC has not shared that information publicly.

Likewise, UGA has not shared the testing numbers for football players, or any of its athletes. It is known there have been several positives in football, however.

Overall, though, UGA appears to have managed the pandemic well. By all accounts, the Bulldogs have avoided the type of outbreak that would force the cancellation of any preseason preparations.

For that, Smart credits sports-medicine director Ron Courson. Not only has Georgia been testing for COVID-19, but it performs heart examinations for myocarditis after a player recovers from a positive.

“You test, you research, and you look at it,” Smart said. "Ron and his staff are doing a tremendous job of that.

Meanwhile, things are trending well this week, at UGA and some other points in the SEC. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin told reporters Monday that the Rebels had no positive tests last week for the first time since practices began in late July. The previous week they had 27 players out.

And the University of Georgia had its best week since students returned to campus for fall semester in mid-August. Wednesday’s weekly report showed a 70 percent drop in positive cases (which includes faculty, staff, students and athletes) and zero hospitalizations. That comes after record highs the previous two weeks.

Still, COVID-19 stands as an ever-present threat, not just to the football season, but to the overall health and well-being of UGA’s campus. Smart is not taking anything for granted.

On Tuesday, he said position coaches are cross-training players more than ever just in the case a player the Bulldogs might have been counting on is suddenly sidelined.

“With the concerns for COVID knocking somebody out, we’ve just got to be deeper than we’ve ever been,” he said.