Tennessee was scheduled to scrimmage in Neyland Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
COVID-19 restrictions canceled those plans, however. 44 Tennessee players missed Saturday’s practice with “seven or eight” out due to positive COVID-19 tests, Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt told the media.
“We had slated for a scrimmage, really had one slated for Wednesday and was going to back it up to today, but we didn’t scrimmage, got way too many guys out,” Pruitt said during a media session on Zoom. “We had 44 players that didn’t practice today, and they hadn’t practiced, probably for the last three or four practices. Just didn’t think that was wise to scrimmage. Just went with a normal practice. Only got 30 offensive players that were able to practice, so really focused on two groups.
The CDC protocols are leaving Tennessee shorthanded. In addition to the seven or eight players who have tested positive, Pruitt estimated that 27 or 28 players sat out due to contact tracing. Others sat out due to injury.
Pruitt indicated that the offensive line room and wide receiver position were the units affected the most.
“Two of the guys that were in quarantine self-reported that they were around somebody with Covid, and in the testing they end up showing up that they had it,” Pruitt said. “The other 50 guys, we’ve had one out of 50 that has eventually tested positive for Covid. Just trying to get through the contact tracing. When a guy misses 14 days of practice, or 14 days of training, starting over and it’s kind of had a cumulative effect a little bit with a few injuries here and there, nothing severe, but some guys that’s had to miss some practice time.
“It’s definitely been challenging, and we’ve got to continue to improve as a football team and just figure out the circumstances and figure out a way to be productive in them.”
Tennessee was originally scheduled to begin its season on Saturday against Charlotte. Instead, the Vols will open their season against South Carolina on Sept. 26.
“I’m really happy we didn’t play today,” Pruitt said. “If we had played today, we would’ve had a hard time beating anybody. I guess that might be a blessing in itself.”