COVID forces audible to Michigan’s College Football Playoff prep

NCAA Football

MIAMI (WOOD) — On what was supposed to be a fun filled Media Day ahead of Friday’s College Football Playoff semi-final between No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Georgia, the players instead answered questions virtually from the podium.

COVID-19 precautions canceled Media Day and other open team events.

On Wednesday, Florida shattered its single day record for COVID-19 testing with nearly 47,000 positive results, NBC 6 Miami reports. The surge of positive results across the country and concern over the omicron variant has forced the postponement of a number of college bowl games and changed the opponents in a number of others. Still, the College Football Playoff is scheduled for Friday with No. 1 Alabama playing No. 4 Cincinnati, ahead of the 7:30 p.m. game for the Wolverines.

The Media Day cancellation was just one of a handful of changes made to the week of preparation for both the Wolverines and the Bulldogs. Team practices were closed to any open media and team events, like the family beach day, was also switched to team members only.

“Of course there’s anxiety, but I mean, we’re all doing the right things, so it’s not really that deep for us,” Michigan defensive back Brad Hawkins said.

Michigan has taken measures since last year to protect the team from COVID-19 and according to the Detroit Free Press, the Wolverines received a full team booster before their trip to Florida.

“We’re not like too worried because we’re following all the rules and regulations that all the doctors and trainers set for us,” Wolverine kicker Jake Moody said. “It’s not too much of a worry, but there’s always a chance that you could get it, so I guess there’s always going to be a little bit of anxiety.”

The team has still been able to enjoy themselves in the sunshine state. Moody joked that the weather was much better than back home in Ann Arbor. Though with 80s and sunshine in the forecast, there was more truth than humor. His teammates agree.

“It’s just a blessing to be down here with the team and this great weather out here in Florida,” running back Hassan Haskins said.

“We’ve spent a lot of time, whether that was the beach or in the game room, and I think truly these dudes really enjoy being around each other,” quarterback Cade McNamara added. “We’re trying to make the most
out of those moments because obviously this team will never be the same after this.”

Georgia is facing similar limitations and cautiousness. Something head coach Kirby Smart says they began to address weeks ago.

“CFP (College Football Playoff) has made it very safe for them to do that,” Smart said about the team’s outdoor activities. “I think probably the worst thing you could do would be have these kids come to a hotel and just be in the hotel for four days and not move and not do anything. So they’ve made it safe for our players to be able to function.”

While there is a level of fun and excitement surrounding the playoff, the scaled back festivities may not be a bad thing for the players. McNamara said he liked not having to mingle with the opposing team like with previous bowls and said the Wolverines are focused on Friday.

“I think so far we’ve enjoyed our time but also taken a level of seriousness to this week,” McNamara said. “Obviously we’re playing for a championship, it’s not just a common bowl game, so I think the team is serious, and so far this week we’ve had a good week of practice.”

What remains unclear is whether or not star cornerback Dax Hill made the trip to the Orange Bowl. When McNamara and offensive lineman Andrew Vastardis were asked about that, both deferred to coach Jim Harbaugh.

“It’s not our job to comment on other players, so we’ll let coach Harbaugh answer that question,” McNamara said.

As for the rest of the team, they’ll have continue to beat the odds around them until kickoff 7:30, Friday night from Miami.

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