Lincoln Riley: "You've Got to Wear a Mask When You're Around Anybody"
As he addressed media in his Tuesday press conference, Lincoln Riley wasn't about to downplay the continual danger of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after Oklahoma took the field sans 20 players last weekend.
In fact, he indicated that the Sooners' contest with Missouri State last week came uncomfortably close to being postponed. Riley remarked that the Bears were loaded up on team buses in Springfield, but didn't leave until Oklahoma officially gave them the thumbs-up to make the journey to Norman.
“They were sitting in the parking lot waiting for us to give the green light," said Riley.
One asset that is working in Oklahoma's favor is a new rapid test system, which the program deployed last Friday. It's cut significantly into the time required to obtain testing data.
“It was helpful just to be able to get the results," Riley said. "We tested the whole team. After testing the whole team, it probably took in the neighborhood of two hours to get all the results.”
However, Riley acknowledged that the bigger issue at hand is contact traces. He stated that the vast majority of his players identified through contact tracing have tested negative for the virus, but that doesn't prevent them from losing valuable reps in the interim.
“Those have been tougher," he admitted. "We’ve done a pretty decent job on the contact trace; the majority of guys that we have are roommates. … We have seriously reduced our number of contact traces that we could have avoided — doing something dumb, going to a restaurant with somebody, getting in a car with somebody.”
Riley said that many of his players wear masks even while they're at home with their roommates, and continually take the utmost precaution to preserve their health. However, that's not a narrative that holds true across the Oklahoma campus, and that places an even greater onus on the players to stay safe as they attend classes and walk the campus.
“We were kind of expecting it," said center Creed Humphrey. "We’re at a college. Kids are going to do what they want to do."
"Kids" will certainly do as they please. But the glaring problem is that student-athletes can't be "kids," and Humphrey realizes that. He emphasized that as football players, he and his teammates have to maintain an extra degree of vigilance.
"We’re not going to be able to go out to restaurants, things like that, things that we normally do," he said. "Our job is to keep our distance as much as we can.”
Riley has been as proactive about containing the spread of the virus as any coach across the country, and he referenced some of the specific measures he's taken to ensure player safety. He said that his players maintain social distance at virtually all times, including team meetings and meals, and that masks remain mandatory.
“It comes down to, you’ve got to wear a mask when you’re around anybody," he said. "If you want to play, you want to be around it, it’s just what you’ve got to do.”
Needless to say, Riley's players concur. With their 2020 season at stake every day, it's the least they can do.
"Wearing a mask isn't that hard," said H-back Jeremiah Hall.
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