MIAMI SHORES, Fla. – It was somewhat of a strange day here at the Orange Bowl on Monday.

It started off with a virtual press conference with Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning and five of his players. “Virtual” is the word they use in the bowl business these days to describe interviews conducted not in person, but over a video conference call.

Georgia’s five players – linebacker Nakobe Dean, safety Lewis Cine, safety Christopher Smith, linebacker Quay Walker and defensive tackle Jordan Davis -- devoted most of their respective five minutes to trying not to say anything insightful or interesting. They succeeded for the most part.

But that was OK, because on a gloriously warm and sunny South Florida afternoon, both the Bulldogs and Michigan were holding afternoon practices at their respective sites that were open to 15 minutes of viewing. If nothing else, that would afford the opportunity to get outside in the wonderful weather, get a look at Georgia’s team in action and perhaps gather some tangible information, such as what players are here and which ones currently are not participating.

Didn’t happen.

An hour before those viewing periods were to take place at Barry University and , the teams decided to cancel. Under the pretense of “COVID concerns,” Georgia was the first of the semifinalists to scrap media access. Michigan soon followed suit. Alabama and Cincinnati are doing the same in Dallas.

Georgia already was encountering “COVID concerns” before arriving in Miami. Quarterback JT Daniels was among players reportedly forced to quarantine and did not accompany the Bulldogs on the team plane. It’s not known whether the Wolverines likewise are experiencing issues. Michigan chose not to allow the players to go home for the holidays and instead quarantined them in Ann Arbor before traveling to Miami on Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, there are risks aplenty in Miami, especially in the vicinity of the Bulldogs’ team hotel. The Intercontinental in downtown Miami is located next door to Bayfront Park, an area of shops and restaurants frequented by cruise ships and international tourists daily. On Monday night, the area was jammed with traffic and visitors, who spilled out into the roadways and forced police to close several downtown streets. A few miles away, traffic snarled to a stop on Highway A1A headed to South Beach.

Nevertheless, Georgia players said they are intent on having as much fun as possible amid the competitive atmosphere surrounding a College Football Playoff semifinal. Sunday night they had dinner out on the bay on a yacht. Monday afternoon they had a beach day with families and the team traveling party. There’s a trip to Jungle Island adventure park scheduled later in the week.

“It’s exciting,” Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett said shortly after arriving. “Hopefully we’ll get to go to the beach and see what Christmastime and the holiday season is like down here. Obviously, we’ve got a game to win. But the fact that it’s played down here in Maimi is pretty exciting.”

Said Davis: “We’re excited to be in Miami but, as we all know, it’s a hotspot for Covid. We just have to make sure to protect ourselves and wear our masks and just enjoy the moment. But bowl week is a great time for team chemistry and getting to know each other better than we already do.”

Later in the day Monday, the Orange Bowl announced that Tuesday’s practices were also closed to media viewing. So, at least the Bulldogs won’t have to deal with that distraction.

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