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Multiple Florida players absent from first 2020 fall practice

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And a few big-name playmakers are reportedly among the Gators “holding out.”

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Multiple Florida Gators players missed Monday’s first practice of Florida’s 2020 fall camp, Florida coach Dan Mullen confirmed to media members on a Zoom call Monday afternoon.

“I’ve had communication with them, but that’s not my place to share right now,” Mullen said. He would not confirm which players sat out or their reasonings but noted that he “wouldn’t be surprised if we have guys opt-out or if we have coaches opt-out” of the 2020 season.

Zach Goodall of AllGators reports that the players missing practice include at least four players who have been somewhat vocal about the burgeoning organization of college athletes — three of whom are prominent wide receivers.

At least four players are confirmed to be holding out, according to sources: Wide receivers Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes, and Jacob Copeland, and defensive end Zachary Carter.

Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel later confirmed that those four players missed Monday’s practice.

Carter, Copeland, and Toney have been notably public — and somewhat conflicted — about their feelings on playing this season, especially in the wake of pushes by organized groups of athletes at Pac-12 and Big Ten colleges that were widely seen as being part of the impetus for both conferences.

Copeland has suggested that an all-SEC schedule might be motivation while also retweeting a message from Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) suggesting that the current state of college sports is a “civil rights crisis” in which “unpaid kids” who are disproportionately people of color are laboring for an industry that makes billions and commenting on a tweet from rapper Plies about the auspicious relative volumes of college football coaches about the Black Lives Matter movement and the imperative to play college football this fall.

Toney raised the specter of opting out and cited a coach’s passing after contracting COVID-19 as part of his potential reasoning for doing so.

And Carter, arguably the most vocal of all, has noted that players are putting their health on the line this season, issued calls for unity among players, argued that college athletes deserve more, and ultimately asserted his desire to play this fall.

The notably quietest one of the four reported holdouts is Grimes, perhaps this roster’s most talented player and maybe the most important non-quarterback set to play for Florida this fall. Grimes has sent few tweets of his own words in recent weeks, but has retweeted several of the above messages, and others about COVID-19’s significant spread in the U.S. and internationally — perhaps fittingly, as Goodall notes, because his mother is a nurse who has been intimately involved in South Florida’s response to the virus, leaving him to communicate with her through glass at points earlier this year.

Update, 4 p.m.: Carter, Grimes, and Toney have taken to Twitter since the publication of this article to send statements explicitly or implicitly addressing their decisions.

Grimes also liked a tweet from the Sentinel’s Thompson noting that a single missed practice does not necessarily imply an intention to hold out or opt out of the season.

In addition, Carter’s father spoke to Zach Abolverdi of Inside the Gators to shed light on his son’s decision to miss practice, saying that “he’s taking the cautious route” when it comes to his health thanks in part to multiple family friends dying from the effects of COVID-19.

The news of deliberately skipped practices and possible holdouts — still a rarity in college sports, though common at the professional level — comes on the same day that the SEC is fully revealing its revamped fall schedule in partnership with the SEC Network, with the reveal of each team’s opening opponent coming at 3 p.m. Eastern and a full slate being released at 7 p.m. Eastern.

The SEC distributed approximately $651 million of total revenue among its 14 member institutions for the 2018-19 fiscal year. If that money alone — only a fraction of the revenue earned by colleges’ athletic departments — were distributed evenly among a hypothetical 1,372 SEC athletes in football and men’s basketball (based on 85 full-scholarship players in Football Bowl Subdivision football and 13 in Division I men’s basketball), the two so-called “revenue” sports that drive the lion’s share of the college sports industry, it would amount to just under $475,000 per player per year.