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Pat Fitzgerald press conference notes: False positive test, camp starting and new schedule

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Northwestern’s head coach talked to the media via Zoom after Friday’s practice.

Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald addressed the media following the publication of the new 2020 Big Ten schedule and the news of Northwestern’s first positive COVID-19 test.

Opening Statement: “We had an awesome practice here this morning. We look forward to camp here today. We had our first helmets practice in a modified way. The guys are really excited and fired up for the start of it. It seems like it’s been a long road to get to this point. We had everybody that we expected to be at practice at practice today. We did make a decision to pause workouts early in the week, but we found out everybody came back negative.”

On the week following the positive test: “The previous positive test was a false positive. I think our plan and execution of our plan has been flawless...We’ve tried to do everything we can to educate our guys.”

On sustainability of college football: “I think it’s day by day, choice by choice. It’s not just our players, it’s our entire program. We’re constantly evaluating what we’re doing and how we’re doing things. I’ve been around the same people. I call it a pseudo-bubble.”

On emotional standpoint of testing: “Our medical team handles all that. We as a staff are really concerned about the isolation and quarantine from a mental health standpoint. None of these decisions are being made by me, I’m just following their lead.”

On player opt-outs: Everybody we expected to have showed up today. I keep calling it a modified practice because we want to make sure our guys get all the information they and their families need collectively, and we 100 percent support their decision. We have said from the beginning that it is optional to play.”

On differences with practice this season: “We’re hitting sleds, and it’s like a car wash. We’re spraying them down. I want to be able to crawl then walk then run then sprint. I think the 14th deadline is an important day in terms of the eligibility piece. Contact tracing is a big part of this equation. For the CDC it’s six feet and 15 minutes, and I think it’s really hard to be right across from a guy for 15 minutes in a football practice. That’s not how the game is played. If and when we play in the opener, we’ll be ready.”

On the Player’s Tribune piece: “I was alerted that that would be coming out. I’m proud of our guys if they’re a part of it to be stepping up to be leaders. We’ll wait to see the Big Ten’s answers to these things. Before I was a coach, I was a player. No matter what I do, I always try to approach it looking out of the helmet, not in. I think it takes courage to create change.”

On practices so far: “They came in in great shape...incredibly improved. We tried to overturn every stone...We’ve tried to be transparent and diligent as we can, and our guys have been our guiding light”

On uncertainty impacting mental state: “That’s why we’re going to crawl first. I’m trying to stay up to speed with everything. The SEC is starting late September — that’s way too long of a camp. I want to make sure we stay mentally fresh, emotionally fresh, physically fresh.”

On entire NU community returning to campus: “If I could write an article for the Daily Northwestern, I’d say, please wear a mask if you want football. Wash your hands and socially distance. Please.”

On quarantining after the positive test: “We had 37 total guys that did contact tracing.”

On how to avoid MLB-like outbreaks: “Wear these [masks], wash these [hands] and make good choices.”

On social justice conversations: “We’ve had quite a few. One large group conversation, and I’ve had a lot of individual ones. They’ve been raw. They’ve been real, and they’ve been emotional. A lot of our former players and mentors on the Black community have guided us. We want to understand how we can be better citizens, better brothers, how I can be a better coach. I understand the privilege that I have, and I want to use that to make positive change and positive influence.”

On recruiting: “I think if you were to poll coaches across the country, we want to be with our teams. Not everything is going to be what we call normal. There’s more players committed today than there’s ever been at this time. If we can take official visits, great. If we can’t, we’ll just continue to do what we’ve been doing. Right now, there’s still a no visitor policy at Northwestern. We understand how much of a bad deal this is for the senior class, and we want to do what we can for them, but at the same time we have to get our teams back together.”