No. 1 Clemson, Swinney worried about COVID during bye week

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has few worries about his football team on the field. Off it? That’s another story.

Swinney is concerned that the top-ranked Tigers’ bye week – especially with players getting Friday and Saturday off – could result in the team having more contact with people and increase players’ risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

“Probably the same primary concern of every coach out there,” Swinney said.

So far, so good.

The Tigers (2-0), like all Atlantic Coast Conference teams, are getting tested three times a week and have had no positives through the first two games.

“Our protocol’s been really, really good,” Swinney said Tuesday. “I trust them. It’s not like we get them all day, every day. We get them for about four hours max. So the other 20 hours comes down to trust, discipline and sacrifice.”

Clemson will practice three days this week and have a team function Tuesday in place of its usual community service day during a week off. The team will reconvene after its break Sunday to get tested and start preparing to face Virginia on Oct. 3.

The Tigers are motivated to do everything the right way as they pursue championship goals they missed out on last year by falling to LSU in the national title game, cornerback Sheridan Jones said.

“It’s having faith over fear,” Jones said. “Faith that we are going to have a season. Moving at that pace with that mindset has helped us to work day in, day out and stay focused on the task at hand.”

Clemson has looked like a team on a mission. The Tigers have had easy wins over Wake Forest and The Citadel, beating the Bulldogs 49-0 this past Saturday for their first shutout in four years.

Their play has been so efficient and effective, Swinney is having difficulty picking it apart.

The offense, led by Heisman Trophy favorite Trevor Lawrence, has blitzed both opponents while the first-team defense has played at a championship level. Swinney and his staff have been able to play backups for significant stretches.

“We played 13 linebackers (against The Citadel) and about every D-lineman we had,” Swinney said.

On special teams, B.T. Potter has made all three of his field goals and had touchbacks on his nine kickoffs. Travis Etienne and Amari Rodgers are helping Clemson average nearly 18 yards on punt returns.

Defensive tackle Jordan Williams said as well as the team has performed, it’s time for a break. The long summer camp with all the questions about whether Clemson would even play football was draining and stressful.

“It’s definitely something we all need,” Williams said. “It’s something that’s going to help us grow.”

The team had a spike in COVID-19 cases when it returned for summer workouts in June (37 of 43 positive tests among Clemson athletes were football players). Since then, Williams said players have bought into doing what it takes to continue the season.

“That’s what’s pushed us,” Williams said.

Clemson has had some issues related to COVID-19. Expected starting defensive end Xaiver Thomas took a redshirt season because he caught the virus in the spring and it took a toll on his conditioning. Swinney said Thomas is getting his fitness back and is preparing to play later this season.

Swinney said the program has planned for nearly every virus-related health scenario, including what it would do if Swinney tested positive.

He not sharing, though.

“It’s top secret. I’ve got it tucked away in a drawer in a glass case that says, `Break only if needed,”‘ he said.