'I'm not going anywhere': 21-day provision gives Michigan players extra incentive to stay healthy

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan receiver Giles Jackson was roused from sleep early Wednesday morning by the rapid pinging of his cell phone, as the texts piled up in a group text with his fellow receivers. Linebacker Josh Ross saw the news on Twitter, having typed “Big Ten” in the search bar so he could stay up to date.

When the Big Ten announced Wednesday the football season will start Oct. 23-24, Michigan players, who never stopped going through voluntary practices even after the league postponed the season Aug. 11, said they finally got what they wanted.

Josh Ross

Big Ten schools will play an eight-game conference-only schedule with a plus-one game featuring seeded teams from the East and West divisions, along with the championship game.

“It was so exciting hearing that news finally,” Ross said Thursday during a Zoom call with reporters. “That’s how I was feeling. Like, finally. We had been putting so much work in preparing and it’s just a blessing we get to play this fall.”

Jackson said practice Wednesday was spirited. Ross said defensive coordinator Don Brown told the players “nothing” could ruin his mood now.

“More adrenaline,” Jackson said of practice. “We have a season, so we’re having fun.”

The players believed there would be a season this fall, especially considering three of the Power Five were forging on. Notre Dame, playing as part of the ACC, kicked off its season last Saturday.

“I was very hopeful, and I definitely thought it was going to happen,” Ross said. “I found it very preposterous that people (were) playing and we’re not playing out if a lot of Power Five conferences. Definitely was hopeful, and I definitely thought it needed to happen, would happen, and it did.”

Ross said the wait was tough on the team, especially when the Big Ten’s 10-game schedule was released, then camp started and within a week, the season was postponed.

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“We’re playing, we’re not playing, but at the end of the day, the way we work, we always kept pushing and kept practicing hard and kept getting better as a team,” Ross said. “We’re more than prepared to play.”

Big Ten football players will be tested daily beginning Sept. 30. Any player who tests positive will sit out at least 21 days and can only return pending the approval of a cardiologist.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has been vocal about how vigilant his players and staff have been in following strict COVID-19 protocols, from wearing masks to practicing social distancing. But sitting for 21 days? That’s incredible incentive for the players to continue following protocols.

“You want to know the first thing I thought of when they said that?” Ross said, referring to the length a player must sit if he tests positive. “I’m not leaving my house. I’m not going anywhere. Of course, if I’ve got class, but other than, I’m in my apartment, because that’s outrageous. That’s ridiculous. That can potentially ruin not only the person’s season but the team’s season. Be safe, wear a mask and stay home outside of Schem (Schembechler Hall).

“Us at Michigan, we’ve been handling it the right way every day. With the protocols we have in our building, even if you want to look at the stats, we’ve been handling it the right way and we’re going to continue to handle it the right way and have a great season.”