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Amid turbulence of COVID-19, Ohio State football captains say they want to play

Bill Rabinowitz
brabinow@dispatch.com
Ohio State center Josh Myers said he feels strongly that college football players should have the choice to play this season.

Josh Myers planned to speak up even if he wasn’t asked about it.

That was Tuesday on a conference call after the fourth-year junior center was named one of Ohio State’s seven football captains.

It was before the Mid-American Conference postponed its season Saturday and the Big Ten announced that it would not allow its teams to progress to padded practices in training camp, dimming the prospects for a college football season.

Ohio State captains were asked how safe they felt playing a season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Myers jumped at the chance to answer.

“I feel pretty strongly about this,” he said, “and if the question didn't come up, then I was going to say it at the end of this call anyways. But I think my level of comfort and our safety is really high.

“I think there's nothing more that our coaches and trainers and our staff can do to keep us safe. I would say that my level of concern for safety is small. I'm not concerned.”

Ohio State’s players have followed strict protocols since the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was reopened after its shutdown in March when the pandemic hit. They are tested twice a week, and masks and staying socially distant are mandated except for during practice.

Myers believes that if much of society can reopen, albeit with restrictions, then football can go forward.

“I just really wanted to say this: Restaurants are open, bars are open, all these other places are open,” he said. “And people have the freedom to do those things they want to do, which really are minuscule, probably, in the importance of their lives.

“I just feel like if people our age or any age can do those type of things, then I strongly feel that if I want to, I should have the choice to play a college football season. I also feel like it's a safer environment, being around my teammates and being in the facility and staying where it's clean and safe.”

Quarterback Justin Fields and right guard Wyatt Davis said they agree with Myers.

“The only concerns that pop up in my head are: What are they doing at other schools, and should there be a basic procedure that schools have to go through?” Fields said.

He also said the team is concerned about what happens when other students return to campus and may not be as diligent about following safety procedures as football players have vowed to be.

Fields and his teammates don’t pretend to know whether they’ll have a season. They are maintaining confidence that they will, in part because it would be too painful to contemplate the alternative. For the captains, this is likely their last year as Buckeyes.

Jonathon Cooper, Tuf Borland and Justin Hilliard are graduates in their final year of eligibility. Junior cornerback Shaun Wade, who graduated Sunday, is considered a lock to be a first-round NFL pick in 2021, as are Fields and Davis. Myers, also a junior, could be as well.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren reportedly has advocated considering moving the season to the spring. It’s questionable whether the captains would play then. So for now, they’re maintaining optimism that a fall season can be played.

“As a team, we can’t obviously control many of the things that are going on out there,” Hilliard said. “But we understand what we do control. We can’t have guys on our team getting tested positive for the coronavirus. So we’re doing our best to social distance, to wash our hands as much as possible.

“We know if we have an uptick, that could jeopardize our season. But we’re not worried about what’s ahead. We’re just living in the moment.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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