“Florida has done an excellent job of keeping COVID-19 in check among its athlete population, especially Mullen’s football team,” I wrote in this space last Monday.
Wow, how things can change.
As Florida football begins its first week of this fall without a scheduled game — a bye week coming the week before its previously scheduled bye week, which was also technically rescheduled from the first schedule that got scrapped, if we’re keeping track — the Gators do so largely without a timetable for the steps on their path back to the practice field. With dozens of players and coaches — including Dan Mullen — either dealing with active cases of COVID-19 or guidance to quarantine related to exposure to active cases, Florida’s likely relying on time to elapse for some important players, and is without the coach most important to practices.
While I would guess that some subset of coaches and players who tested negative last week might be cleared to resume practice this week after further testing, it isn’t hard to imagine that those practices might have one or two emaciated position groups — or, worse, that further positive tests are still on the way.
If Florida continues to not practice beyond this Monday, that will mean an interruption of the in-season practice schedule of a full week, with potentially another full week or more of no or limited practices. And on the other side of this outbreak are seven games against SEC foes on seven consecutive Saturdays.
The degree of difficulty for Florida completing this season without further interruptions went up on Tuesday, as the bloom of positive tests that would precipitate all that has followed was revealed. It could yet go up again this week, should more new positive tests — ones that would keep individual players out for Missouri — be recorded within Florida’s program, or within other SEC programs.
And competing for championships? Well, that’s at least partly dependent on Florida’s defense magically improving during a time when a quarter to a third of the roster is out of commission.
I’m not counting on anything right now, personally.
Random side note No. 1: I think CXIX is the closest Roman numerals have come to “sickness” thus far? What unfortunate timing.
Random side note No. 2: You know how Florida was undefeated last Saturday at noon? So were my other two long-loved teams, the Braves and Packers, in the MLB postseason and NFL regular season respectively. Things have changed since then!