44 Players Missing Tennessee Practices
In a Saturday press conference, Tennessee Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt revealed 44 players were unavailable due to a mixture of injuries and COVID-19 cases which forced the cancellation of Saturday's scrimmage.
"We had a scrimmage slated for today, really had one slated for Wednesday, and were going to back it up today, but we didn’t scrimmage," Pruitt said in his opening statement. "Got way too many guys out. We’ve got 44 players that didn’t practice today, and they hadn’t practiced for the last three or four practices. So just didn’t think that was wise to scrimmage and went with a normal practice – only got 30 offensive players that were able to practice. "
Though the 44 number is certainly and understandably daunting, thankfully it has less to do with the pandemic than it seems on the surface, according to Pruitt.
“We’ve had very few COVID cases," Pruitt said. "We didn’t start until July. That was the first time we had a COVID case. We didn’t have much experience in the month of June. The contact tracing and the numbers as they add up, it’s been very tough to prepare a team to play."
Pruitt said the team had 48 players who have missed practices over the past two weeks that are in quarantine, however, reports only "seven or eight" players with positive COVID-19 tests.
For the Vols, a massive hurdle for the team has been contact tracing. When one player tests positive it impacts everyone he's been around. For example, should a defensive lineman test positive, that not only affects his fellow defensive linemen but any offensive lineman he may have competed with in drills in the days leading to his positive test.
“Well, I think the testing protocol is the same for everybody," Pruitt said. "The thing to me that probably is not consistent and is not consistent in our state, obviously, or nationally, is the contact tracing. It’s all based off of each individual county. Probably how many cases you have, they’re probably a little more strict. Hey, I’m not a doctor, we just follow the CDC guidelines."
With just 20 days left until the Vols open the season with South Carolina, Pruitt and his team are in danger of being unavailable for Week 1 or at the very least being extremely understaffed and under-practiced.