OXFORD, Miss. — COVID-19 continues to be one of the fiercest opponents the Ole Miss football team faces this season as more players will be affected Saturday when the Rebels play Auburn.
In Monday’s Zoom press conference, head coach Lane Kiffin was asked if there had been any additional positive cases since last week’s that caused two defensive starters, Jakorey Hawkins and Tariqious Tisdale, to miss the game against Arkansas.
“We’ve got some more in the last three days. It’s become very challenging,” Kiffin said. “This is not easy. Especially when for whatever the reason is, it continues to hit us on defense.”
While Coach Kiffin certainly understands players testing positive must sit out, what frustrates him is the contact tracing rules dictating that those who have been in close contact with one who is positive — even if they, themselves, are negative — are forced to sit out because of that close contact.
Remember just last week when Alabama head coach Nick Saban tested positive at the beginning of the week, but after three consecutive negative tests was able to coach on the sidelines in the game against Georgia? Hold that thought.
If you have an initial negative test, but have been in close contact with someone who is positive, you are not afforded the three negative tests in one week that Saban was given and allowed to participate.
“I still don’t understand how if I get it and Adam is around me, I’m out for 10 days but Adam is out for 14 and can’t test out of it,” Kiffin explained.
“That’s what is really difficult, losing close contacts for 14 days that continue to test negative.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin
Different schools, different rules
Back to Saban…..The Tide head coach was able to be on the sidelines for the UGA game because of the three consecutive tests that paved the way for his return.
And this is where it gets a little strange…those rules concerning the three negative tests apply only for coaches and players who initially test positive — and have nothing to do with those who are deemed ineligible due to contact tracing.
What this ultimately means is Ole Miss players who have not tested positive for COVID-19, but who have been contact traced to someone who is positive, are not able to “test out” of the restrictions, as Nick Saban did.
“That, to me, is the part that’s really frustrating,” Kiffin said.
“Schools have different rules of saying, ‘Oh, I think you were around that guy’ or ‘No, you weren’t.’ I think in some cases School A is going to play a guy where in the exact same situation, School B doesn’t. And that’s really frustrating.”
Ole Miss linebacker MoMo Sanogo indicated Monday that more of the problems with COVID-19 on the defense are actually related to the contact tracing, as opposed to actual positive cases.
Sanogo was asked what could be done to reduce those numbers. “If you’re in your house with your roommates and you’re in the common area, encourage them to wear their mask there, too,” he said. “That’s how the close contact happened. It’s making sure the the guys are conscious that even if you’re with the team, someone on the team can give it to you. You can get it that way, too.”
MoMo Sanogo on increased COVID numbers on defensive side of ball: "I think people just got comfortable, comfortable that we hadn't had any positive tests, maybe out and about a little more. I stay in the house anyways. This should be a reminder to everybody."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 19, 2020
MoMo feels the prior weeks of no COVID positives sort of led to a more relaxed attitude about it and he urges his teammates to stay vigilant.
COVID-19 is a tough opponent — one the Rebels are learning they must stay focused on in order to defeat.