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CU Buffs remain optimistic while prospects of on-time start for college football dim

Coronavirus resurgence crippling communities on first half of CU schedule

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
BOULDER, CO – SEPTEMBER 7, 2019: University of Colorado’s Brady Russell tries to escape University of Nebraska’s Mohamed Barry, on September 7, 2019. (photo by Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

The Colorado Buffaloes are diligently donning their masks while diving into their workouts, eyeing that season opener in Fort Collins that keeps inching closer.

CU’s football players don’t really have any other choice at this stage of the calendar. Yet the beginning of July also basically marks the two-month warning for the kickoff of the 2020 college football season. And while the Buffs are getting ready for the Sept. 5 opener at Colorado State in hopes of emerging victorious in the first game of the Karl Dorrell era, the discouraging late June trend of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down NCAA athletics in March continues to put an on-time start for college football in serious jeopardy.

“It’s hard not to pay attention to, but I don’t think we’re really worrying about it,” CU tight end Brady Russell said. “It’s almost like football is a distraction for us to keep our minds away from COVID. It keeps us focused. We’re just going to keep preparing every day like the season will start when it’s supposed to. And if it doesn’t start when it’s supposed to, we’re going to be ready either way. If you stay ready, you never have to get ready.”

A report published Wednesday by Yahoo Sports indicated the option of playing football in the spring slowly is gaining more traction, and the current trends among many of the locales on the Buffs’ schedule do not provide reason for optimism.

Arizona football is scheduled to begin formal football workouts on July 6 — one week earlier than the Buffs and most other Power 5 programs — by virtue of the Wildcats’ zero week matchup against Hawaii. Yet despite just one positive coronavirus test reported among the 83 student-athletes on UA’s campus, the university opted to halt its voluntary workouts to help curtail the massive COVID-19 surge within the state.

California and Texas, like Arizona, also are backtracking, to various degrees, their respective re-opening campaigns. The Buffs are scheduled to visit all three states — and host three other teams from those states — by the end of October.

“It’s hard to not see everything that’s going on,” CU safety Derrion Rakestraw said. “But we’re trying to follow all the safety rules and we’re preparing like we’re going to start the season in September. We’re working out. We’re working hard. It’s tough to kind of look at the season with all this stuff going on, but we’re trying to focus on the positives.”

Rakestraw and Russell met with local media members on Wednesday via a teleconference, and both players said the Buffs are doing whatever they can to maintain their own health and keep their football season on track. Kansas State, one of several programs across the nation that has halted its voluntary workouts due to an outbreak of positive tests, reportedly did not have a single positive test among the football team when student-athletes returned to campus for voluntary workouts.

A few weeks later, and Wildcats coach Chris Klieman lamented to ESPN.com that his players may have grown complacent by those results before indulging once again in the usual college life weekend activities.

“The coaches are definitely discouraging us from going out and partying and stuff like that,” Rakestraw said. “I feel like a lot of the guys are being smart about it. A lot of the guys are making a lot of good decisions. We just have to keep doing that and hope for the best.”