Florida returns to practice after COVID-19 outbreak within team, coaching staff

Ryan Young
·3-min read

After a two-week break due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the football program, Florida finally returned to practice on Monday.

The Gators halted all team activities on Oct. 13 after coach Dan Mullen, two assistants and at least 26 players tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Everybody’s really excited, ready to get back after it, ready to get back to football and get back playing,” Mullen said. “I think that’s something that is big within the team right now is that ability to get back out on the field, get back playing football. This year’s been a unique year like no other, with stops and starts and different schedules and everything going on. Our guys, I thought, have handled everything extremely well throughout the year. I think they’re going to be really excited to get back out there on the practice field today.”

Mullen said the team received its last positive test on Saturday, though declined to say how many players were attending practice on Monday or how many would be available for their game against Missouri on Saturday.

Mullen also said that he only experienced minor symptoms while battling the virus, and that nobody on his team had any “major issues” with it.

Dan Mullen links outbreak to road travel earlier this season

After days of repeatedly asking for 90,000 fans to pack Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for their game against LSU earlier this month, Mullen tested positive for the virus. Florida had previously allowed just 20 percent capacity at home games. While an order from the governor would have made that wish possible, it would have undoubtedly led to a massive outbreak in the Gainesville area.

Mullen was one of several prominent figures in the college football world to contract the coronavirus in recent weeks, along with Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne and Purdue coach Jeff Brohm. Alabama coach Nick Saban returned a false positive test, too.

Mullen and athletic director Scott Stricklin — who had the virus earlier this summer — are convinced that their outbreak came from a player or two who unknowingly had it while traveling home with the team from their game at Texas A&M earlier this month.

“We always knew that travel was going to be a concern and an issue for us,” Mullen said. “We got through Game 1 without an issue ... and we thought, ‘OK, we’re headed in the right direction’ even with that with a road game. Unfortunately, all of those things when you add them all up ... and you throw the virus in the middle of [a trip] with obviously someone having it on the team or at least one maybe two people having it on the team, and you put it into that environment, you’re going to get a spread, especially for us with a team that we had so few numbers.

“There’s a lot of people out there that have had a large number of guys already have it, so you’re not seeing a spread anymore because they had it. We had so few numbers who have had it that it was able to spread throughout the team, where other teams, from my understanding in the league — we’re still on the low number I think of total positives of people in the league. It was my understanding, our trainers said there’s still teams that have a lot more positives than we do now, so when you’re looking at that aspect of things, they’re not testing that many guys, they’re not doing that. So that concern of that spread was much greater for us for every road game.”

Florida head coach Dan Mullen
Florida coach Dan Mullen contracted the coronavirus earlier this month, just days after he repeatedly asked to have their stadium packed full of fans. (AP/John Raoux, Pool)

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