Students Making Their Way Back to Campus Will Present New COVID-19 Challenges for Football Team

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FAYETTEVILLE — Students are making their way back to the University of Arkansas now and thus Sam Pittman has a challenge in front of him and the staff keeping the players free of COVID-19.

Pittman talked about that subject on Monday during a Zoom conference following the first practice.

“Well, I think you have a valid point with kids coming on campus,” Pittman said. “Obviously they’re coming on campus, they’ve been on campus now for about a week and a day or so. They move in earlier and earlier nowadays. We used to move in like the day before school, but it’s not that way any more.

“So, you know, you’re talking about the Fourth of July and they left and went here and there. You’re talking about every night of the week and just because the kids are back doesn’t mean it was a ghost town here in Fayetteville before they came back. A lot of it is just talking to them about how important the season is to them, how the COVID is very, very scary and very, very harmful.

“I told them the other day that I could not imagine, if I got the virus, who I would have to quarantine. If you look at it that way, the person I’d have to quarantine is my wife, Jamie. But other than that, I haven’t been 6-foot close to somebody without a mask on for over 15 minutes in a long time. I think if you look at it that way as a player, and you go, ‘Okay, they’re going to call you and say you have the virus, who are you going to have to quarantine?’ If the answer is nobody, then you’re probably doing a pretty good job of it. That’s kind of how we had to explain it to our kids and we know they’re young, but we also know that if they get the virus, it’s going to be a 14-day outage, you’re not going to get to play. With a 10-game schedule, it’s going to cost you some games and some time and they’ve worked awful hard. So I think they’re doing a really good job of it, for a long answer, to tell you what I think. But I think we’re doing a really good job of it and there’s going to be, obviously, hard decisions they’re going to have to make when the campus gets full. We just hope they make the right ones. We trust that they will.”

Senior running back Rakeem Boyd talked about the things the school is doing to keep the players safe during the COVID-19.

“This day with corona going on you’ve got anything,” Boyd said. “You’ve got mask, the neck thing, the little turtleneck thing, then you’ve got the other mask. We made our own little mask so they’re keeping us updated and putting new masks and putting little turtle things in there so we can keep our mouth and nose covered the whole time. It’s been working.”

Boyd repeated what many feel is the case as far as having a college football season. Boyd talked about the players being safer in a structured setting such as college football.

“”I feel good,” Boyd said. “A lot of people have to understand that we’re better here. If we go home, we have no safety. We have none of that. We probably won’t even wear a mask if we go home, individually, is what I’m saying. So all of us being here together and Coach getting on them like, ‘Hey, keep your mask on.’ You’ve got to walk around the building with a mask on. So, the safety around here has been good. I feel good about it. It feels like home, so much. All around, it’s a good deal. The safety has been outstanding, the training room, the coaching staff to the media. All of the safety, everyone has a mask on. It’s been good.”

Junior linebacker Bumper Pool also feels the players are responsible and will continue to be assuring football season happens.

“You have so many people that count on you doing these things,” Pool said. “Wearing your mask and staying away from people who aren’t in your inner circle. You feel that responsibility. We all want to have a season, so we have to make sacrifices now and that’s what we’re going to do. We kind of already had our adjustment early on this summer of having to go through all the precautions and everything, so now we’re kind of on cruise control with it. We have people coming back to campus. We’ve put in so much work just to give it away and contaminate our whole team getting it from people not in our circle.”

Pool admitted with all the COVID-19 precautions things are different at practice as opposed to other years.

“It’s different, but we have been going through this whole summer with the same precautions,” Pool said. “For us, it’s like we’re rolling. Whenever we take our helmets off, we’ve got to throw the mask on. We have masks in our helmets. The water situation, our training staff has been phenomenal. We can’t go out and grab a bottle. They’re always there making sure we’ve got our water.”

Arkansas will return to the practice fields on Wednesday.

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