Advertisement
Terps

Mike Locksley uncertain when Maryland football will return to practice after surge in coronavirus cases

Coach Mike Locksley said Thursday evening that the Maryland football team is preparing to welcome Michigan State to Maryland Stadium in College Park on Nov. 21 despite being uncertain when the players and coaches will get medical clearance to return to practice after a coronavirus outbreak forced a suspension of all activities the day before.

“We knew that heading into this adjusted season that there could be hiccups along the way,” said Locksley, who is in his second year leading the Terps. “Much like how we’ve addressed and managed working through these things during the 2020 season, we wake up and we deal with the rules that are given for that day, and yesterday afternoon, we found out that we wouldn’t be playing this weekend. We immediately went to finding solutions to the issue. Right now, our job is to stay active, keep our team focused to get ready for whenever it’s deemed safe to play.”

Advertisement

Locksley spoke publicly for the first time since the university halted all football activities and revealed that eight players had tested positive for COVID-19 over the previous seven days. Saturday’s home game against No. 3 Ohio State was canceled.

Locksley said Maryland (2-1) is treating the cancellation as a bye week and an opportunity to scout the Spartans (1-2).

Advertisement

“There’s nothing we can do about what’s happened or where we are as a program,” he said. “My goal is to be solution-based. So we’re preparing as if Michigan State, our next opponent, is a game that we’re preparing to play, and until they tell me any differently, that’s been the mindset. To try to speculate or forecast whether we will or won’t is really not something I would concern myself with because I’m basing it off with where I am today.”

Locksley said there is no timetable for the team’s return to practice and other football-related activities until school health officials, working in conjunction with state and Prince George’s County health experts, signal a green light.

“They’ll lead the charge on telling us when,” he said. “So right now, we’re day-to-day, and when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll get whatever information is provided to me by the medical people in regards to where we are for that day, and then I’ll make decisions for the football program that relate based on what I’m told or able to do. So I’m on a need-to-know basis with it.”

Locksley confirmed the team had moved into an area hotel Wednesday night and intends to remain there until Sunday morning, conducting meetings virtually and in-person with masks and physical distancing. He said players, coaches and staff would be tested every day, but was unaware of any new positive cases among the players.

“As far as I know, we’re at the number that was reported by our administration and our medical people,” he said. “I haven’t been privy to any additional numbers or findings.”

Locksley sidestepped questions about how many players have been affected by contact tracing or whether coaches and staff members have been infected. He said the players who tested positive are not at the hotel, but declined to say whether any players were exhibiting symptoms. He said it did not appear that the infections are concentrated within specific position groups.

“The individuals that have contracted COVID are not necessarily from one position group,” he said. “It’s been pretty all over the place in terms of how it has presented itself on our team.”

Maryland is the second Big Ten school to lose a game to the coronavirus. Wisconsin canceled two games after a COVID-19 outbreak affected 30 members — 17 players and 13 staff — since Oct. 21, but the Badgers are planning to travel to Michigan for a game Saturday night.

Advertisement

The Southeastern Conference postponed four games this week over coronavirus concerns. Games between No. 1 Alabama and LSU, No. 5 Texas A&M and Tennessee, No. 12 Georgia and Missouri, and No. 24 Auburn and Mississippi State were rescheduled for later in the season.

“As we all know, cases are going up across the country,” said Locksley, whose game against the Buckeyes was the 55th NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision game to be postponed or canceled because of COVID-19. “So our football program is a microcosm of just that. Every week, we have prepared for two opponents — our football opponent and COVID. This week, we’ve got to continue to follow the lead of our medical people to mitigate and minimize the spread as we move forward.”

It is unclear whether any of the players contracted the coronavirus during Saturday’s 35-19 win at Penn State or if any of the players may have played without knowing they were infected. But Locksley said antigen testing conducted the morning of the game had cleared the team.

“I feel confident that we played a clean game,” he said. “And then based on testing results on Monday and last week, we obviously had guys that contracted COVID. I can’t begin to speculate on where or when or how it was contracted.”

Terps fans had been looking forward to Saturday’s game against the Buckeyes (3-0). A candidate for the College Football Playoff, Ohio State had been considered a litmus test for Maryland, which had won its last two games and was paced by the emergence of sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of former Alabama star and current Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

But Locksley said the health of his players and staff, not a missed opportunity to make a statement on the college football landscape, was his utmost priority.

Advertisement

“I’m less worried about the momentum we had on the field than I am doing what’s right off the field,” he said. “When we started to ramp up for the season, I told everyone that our discipline both on and off the field would be the catalyst for the type of success we would have as a team. Obviously, our team has done some pretty good things the last two weeks. As I’ve said, I’m very guarded that we’ve arrived as a team. I do think that we’re forming habits that are now starting to become a part of our DNA as a team, and we’re going to continue to do the things we can do based on the rules we have in place today to continue to prepare our team.”


Advertisement