Georgia Tech steering clear of padded practices

Georgia Tech defensive end Antonneous Clayton works on his technique. Photo by Santino Stancato / Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech defensive end Antonneous Clayton works on his technique. Photo by Santino Stancato / Georgia Tech

Credit: Georgia Tech footbal/Santino Stancato

Credit: Georgia Tech footbal/Santino Stancato

In a year when football practices weren’t designed to prevent the spread of a highly contagious coronavirus, Saturday would have been Georgia Tech’s second day in shoulder pads and helmets in accordance with the NCAA’s rules on acclimatizing players to playing in full pads.

That would have set the stage for players to practice on Sunday in full pads in the fifth practice of the preseason. By NCAA rule, helmets are the only protective gear that players can wear for the first two days of practice, then helmets and shoulder pads for the next two days and finally full pads for the fifth practice.

However, on Saturday, the Yellow Jackets’ fourth practice, players remained in helmets and shorts, the same gear that they had worn the first three days. It was by the decision of coach Geoff Collins, according to a team spokesman, out of concern that putting on more equipment and allowing more contact raises the risk for the spread of COVID-19. Collins intended to continue in helmets and shorts for the time being.

The decision gained added credence Saturday when the Big Ten, which had teams begin practice Thursday and Friday, announced that its teams will practice in helmets and shorts until further notice. The Big Ten’s decision was based on the counsel of the conference’s task force for emerging infectious diseases and its sports medicine committee.

Tech’s Saturday morning practice preceded continued signals that the college football season is in serious jeopardy of being canceled. Besides the Big Ten’s ruling on practice, the Mid-American Conference canceled its fall sports season on Saturday, becoming the first FBS league to take a step that several lower-tier leagues have already made. Also, the Detroit Free Press reported that Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren preferred playing football in the spring rather over the fall, even as the conference had approved a fall schedule only three days earlier, on Wednesday.

In video-conference interviews, Collins, assistant coaches and players have described the many precautions being taken to limit the potential for spreading the coronavirus, such as the painting of circles on the sidelines of the practice fields as a visual reminder to keep social distance.

“I think as a team, we’re doing a really good job with taking safety precautions,” defensive tackle Jahaziel Lee said Saturday. “Coach Collins has done a great job of just putting everything and establishing everything in place for us to be fully protected.”