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Northwestern pauses football workouts after a player tests positive for COVID-19

Northwestern football has paused workouts after a player tested positive for COVID-19, the Tribune has learned.

An NU spokesperson confirmed Monday that the program would not resume workouts until Wednesday at the earliest. Friday is the allowable start date for contact practices, per NCAA rules.

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As a result of the positive test and contact tracing initiatives, some NU football players have been placed in quarantine. Those who have come within six feet of the player for a specified period of time will need to test negative before being cleared to leave their residence or return to workouts.

The Wildcats’ last workout was Friday.

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At least five other Big Ten football programs — Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State, Rutgers and Maryland — have had to suspend activities at some point this summer.

Michigan State put its entire team in quarantine after reporting 16 positive results among 122 athletes. Four athletic department staff members also tested positive.

Rutgers halted workouts after an on-campus gathering led to an outbreak, according to NJ Advance Media, which reported Monday night that the number of cases had nearly doubled from 15 to 28 players plus multiple staff members.

Illinois announced Monday that 23 athletes, at least 18 of them football players, have tested positive since returning to campus in June.

Last week a top Big Ten source estimated a 1-in-4 chance that college football would be played this fall. That was before two key developments, the first being a second outbreak in Major League Baseball, with a rash of positive tests among the St. Louis Cardinals prompting many to believe that sports leagues cannot work outside of a bubble.

Also, a group claiming to represent hundreds of Pac-12 football players has formed a “unity movement” and issued demands relating to the players’ health and safety. The demands include revenue sharing, medical coverage for six years after a player’s eligibility expires and a third party, selected by players, to address COVID-19 issues.

While the Big Ten source said he would be “shocked” if the conference does not release a football schedule this week, there’s growing sentiment that there is simply no way to make college football work in 2020 because of concerns about player health.

The mother of an Indiana football player added to that concern Monday with a Facebook post. Debbie Rucker described the plight of her son Brady Feeney, a freshman offensive lineman.

She praised the Hoosiers for shutting down workouts but cautioned: “Unfortunately this virus hit my son very hard compared to most of his teammates. Here was a kid in perfect health, great physical condition and due to the virus ended up going to the ER because of breathing issues. After 14 days of hell battling the horrible virus … now we are dealing with possible heart issues! He is still experiencing additional symptoms and his blood work is indicating additional problems. Bottom line, even if your son’s schools do everything right to protect them, they CAN’T PROTECT THEM!!

“I pray my son recovers from this horrible virus and can lead a healthy normal life!! Football does not really matter when your child’s health is in jeopardy!! Think about it!!! My heart is hurting and I pray for all of these kids and for the people making the decisions about the season!!!

On Thursday the Big Ten emailed a letter to conference athletic directors co-authored by Commissioner Kevin Warren and Dr. Chris Kratochvil, chairman of the conference’s task force on infectious disease.

The letter stated that “if there is a viable path forward, we will do everything within our power to make that happen for our student-athletes. Is it a guarantee? No, it is not. We are prepared not to play if the medical experts say so. So much can happen in the next six weeks.”

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An attachment signed by Warren and Kratochvil stated that they anticipated making a decision on preseason camps “within the next 5 days.”

Day 5 is Tuesday.

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