GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Dan Mullen had several players miss the team’s opening training camp practice Monday.
Mullen declined to provide names, but the Orlando Sentinel and Sports Illustrated reported that four guys – receivers Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland and defensive end Zachary Carter – skipped the session.
“We had a couple guys not practice today, but we’ll see how that goes moving forward for us,” Mullen said during a Zoom call with reporters. “But, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have guys opt out. I’m going to support them fully. Really wouldn’t be surprised if we had coaches opt out, to be honest with you. Coaches are at such high risk because of the age group that they’re in.
“But we’ll figure it out.”
It’s unclear if the players’ absences were related to the coronavirus pandemic. Toney and Copeland expressed concerns earlier this month about playing amid a global health crisis.
Toney wrote on Twitter that sitting out “might be the better decision.” Copeland responded that Toney might have the right idea and tweeted, “Health over football,” followed by a thumbs-up emoji.
Carter, meanwhile, has supported the (hash)WeAreUnited campaign started by Pac-12 players earlier this month. His father, Frank Carter, told Rivals that his son has significant concerns.
“First of all, he’s my son and I support him,” Frank Carter told the recruiting website. “He told me he wants to play, but he just doesn’t feel safe right now. We’ve had a couple friends of the family who’ve passed away from the effects of COVID. Now some players in other conferences are having issues with their heart.
“I think all of that is kind of alarming to him. There’s really not enough research or data to give him information that can put his mind at ease, so he’s just taking the cautious route.”
The elder Carter also told Rivals something he said he hasn’t shared with his son.
“I went through it,” he said. “I was having those night sweats and I couldn’t consume enough liquid to keep me from being dehydrated, so I had to get rushed to the hospital because my wife said I was hallucinating. I didn’t tell Zach any of this stuff.”
Two hours after Mullen’s news conference, Grimes posted on Twitter, “Don’t believe everything you read.” He did not elaborate.
Florida is scheduled to open Sept. 26 at Mississippi, which is entering its first season under coach Lane Kiffin. The next five weeks will be critical in getting to the opener.
Two Power Five conferences – the Big Ten and the Pac-12 – already have postponed their football seasons because of coronavirus concerns.
The Gators had 21 players test positive for COVID-19 since returning to campus in late May. They’ve had no positives or anyone quarantined because of exposure over the past four weeks.
“Statistically speaking off of that, we’re – off of those numbers – you would think the safe place to be is practicing football and doing organized team activities because that’s where our numbers greatly decreased,” Mullen said. “That’s the information we have now. That’s why I feel comfortable.
“I can’t tell you what’s going to happen long-term, but our guys have handled everything really well. I think our medical staff, UF people that have helped our medical staff here within the athletic department, have done an amazing job creating a safe environment for our players and the coaches as well.”
The Gators will get another challenge this weekend when students start returning to campus.
“We’re going to adapt to whatever happens as we continue to move forward,” Mullen said. “I think it’s the team that’s able to adapt best to whatever situation – there’s a lot of moving parts – and the team that’s able to adapt will end up holding up that national championship trophy at the end of the season.”