Richard Newton's Spring Practice Absences Explained by Jimmy Lake

The junior running back needlessly missed two workouts because of pandemic drawbacks.
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Richard Newton took part in the University of Washington's fifth spring football practice, which was a notable development on Wednesday because the running back had missed two of the first four workouts without any explanation.

Husky coach Jimmy Lake finally offered a reason for Newton's on-and-off participation.

The junior runner twice tested positive for COVID-19 – results that were determined to be false positives – forcing him to needlessly miss practice. It's another drawback of the pandemic era.

"We think we've solved the issue, but it just reminds us we're in the middle of a pandemic and we still have to jump through a lot of hoops to get people to practice every day," Lake said. "We're glad Rich is back."

It's outwardly noticeable whenever the 6-foot, 210-pound junior from Lancaster, California, is absent from the two-hour sessions.

Newton not only is one of the most physically impressive runners with his solid build alone, he's also one of the fastest backs. And he brings plenty of style simply by the way he puts on his uniform.

While everyone in the backfield on Wednesday wore white shoes, Newton was different, showing up in old-style black cleats, as if he were suiting up for the 1960s Green Bay Packers or Chicago Bears.

He's the black and blue division.

And now pandemic negative.

Otherwise on Wednesday, the Huskies ran through two hours of frenzied activity. They set up scrimmage sets two at a time, going in opposite directions, in order to give players as many reps as possible.

Ja'Lynn Polk, the Texas Tech transfer, continues to impress by making big catches as he tries to move up the depth chart. 

"Today, he had his best day," Lake said. "It was fun watching him get out there and make some plays."

The Huskies also mixed in some new faces on the first-unit offensive line for the first time, inserting 6-foot-5, 300-pound junior Matteo Mele at right tackle for Victor Curne and 6-foot-6, 340-pound sophomore Nate Kalepo at left guard for Ulumoo Ale. 

In that exchange, the UW went 60 pounds lighter across its top line.

The Husky defense, however, had the upper hand in the latest workout. It came up with several big plays, beginning with sophomore inside linebacker Alphonzo Tuputala intercepting a Patrick O'Brien pass with an overly athletic play – he stuck his hands up on a pass rush and came down with the ball in very close quarters. 

Oklahoma transfer Bookie Radley-Hiles both touched down freshman quarterback Sam Huard for a sack and then deflected a Huard pass. On Bookie's second play, cornerback Kyler Gordon showed his appreciation by running over and slapping the former Sooner's helmet. The DBs like having that guy around.

Redshirt freshman safety Jacobe Covington also intercepted a pass thrown by No. 1 quarterback Dylan Morris and junior safety Cameron Williams stole one from young Huard.

After practice, Lake implored fans to attend Saturday's practice, which will be a fully live scrimmage for the first time in 70-degree weather. 

Follow Dan Raley of Husky Maven on Twitter: @DanRaley1 and @HuskyMaven

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