Still no issues for Georgia as coronavirus impedes some SEC teams

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart bends and watches the offense in red zone during the second half of a football game against Tennessee on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at Sanford Stadium in Athens. Georgia won 44-21. JOHN AMIS FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

ATHENS – In so far as can be determined, the Georgia football team has not had anything close to an outbreak when it comes to its battle with the coronavirus pandemic. But there was no chest-beating in the Bulldogs' camp Tuesday in the wake of news that two SEC schools have been hit hard by coronavirus issues.

Florida postponed football activities Tuesday as the team was preparing for Saturday’s game against LSU in Gainesville. This came just days after coach Dan Mullen was calling for the school to allow a capacity crowd. Then on Wednesday, the Florida-LSU game was postponed.

That followed Monday’s news that the Missouri-Vanderbilt game scheduled for Saturday in Columbia was postponed. A release from the SEC said the decision was made because of “positive tests and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the Vanderbilt football program.”

The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (3-0), who face No. 2 Alabama on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, has made it through three games with close to a full roster of players.

Asked after the Bulldogs' practice Tuesday how his team is doing against the virus, coach Kirby Smart said, "there’s really no way to tell.

“The biggest thing is you’re one day away, one test away, one situation away from being in a situation like Florida’s in,” he said. “You know, we’ve been very fortunate. I think Ron (Courson) and his medical staff has done a great job for us. … We feel like our players are doing a good job, but I’ll be honest with you, when they’re not at the facility, I don’t know what they’re doing.”

College teams don’t have the luxury of keeping a true “bubble” because the players have to attend classes. Most of Georgia’s football players are taking them online, but a handful are having to enter classrooms on campus.

Meanwhile, after games and practices are over, players are free to do what they wish. They’re constantly warned and face reprimands and discipline for not adhering to team protocols. But otherwise they are free to do as they want. Downtown Athens and its nightlife scene loom as a constant threat.

“The biggest concern that we have is postgame and then Sundays,” Smart said. “They’re back into a routine Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. But you’re one exposure, one outbreak away from losing some guys.”

SEC teams are required to test players twice a week, on Tuesdays and on Sundays. Georgia actually test its players three times, including the day of the game, and has the means to test at any time. They post news of other team outbreaks in football and other sports throughout the football facility.

“We’ve been fortunate so far, but we don’t even have all our results back from this week,” Smart said.

The Bulldogs lost seven players to confirmed virus cases in June when the team returned to campus for volunteer workouts, according to UGA’s response last month to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution request for testing records. The athletic department has not released any results since then.

Meanwhile, most of the Georgia players who have had to sit out in the first three weeks of the delayed SEC season have had injury explanations. This week, Smart said linebacker Jermaine Johnson has been “banged up,” and running back James Cook has a shoulder injury suffered against Auburn. This past weekend, receiver Tommy Bush was the victim of an automobile-versus-pedestrian accident that will require some dental and facial surgery this week.

Otherwise, it appears Georgia’s roster is at or near capacity. The SEC last month adopted the NCAA rule that if one of its teams does not have at least 53 healthy players to compete and/or meet established minimums at certain positions, they’re allowed to opt-out of a game rather than forfeit. Vanderbilt played South Carolina on Saturday with only 56 available players.

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