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Media Availability Notes: Peyton Ramsey, Riley Lees and Greg Newsome

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We heard from the players since for the first time since May.

Iowa v Northwestern Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

After a Wednesday morning practice, three players spoke to the media via Zoom, their first interaction with the press in the wake of a the reinstatement of the Big Ten football season. Here’s what DB Greg Newsome II, QB Peyton Ramsey and WR Riley Lees had to say.

Greg Newsome II

On preparation being affected from the crazy timeline: “I don’t think it changes at all how well or how I’m going to prepare for this season. We have a little less time to get ready with pads on and things like that, but mindset-wise I don’t think it’s going to change at all.”

His reaction to finding out the season was coming back: “Obviously Twitter is that first way of us getting info a lot [of the time]. As soon as we got that news — I live with a few players on the team — we were so excited. We had in our mind that maybe we’ll play in January or even later than that, so when I got the news, I was so excited. We talked as a team later that day, Coach Fitz talked to us on the unity council.”

On football being the only sport to compete this fall: “Have to use it as a chip on our shoulder. We’ve got to play for the other sports that can’t play. I feel bad for them that they aren’t able to play, but we’re going to use that for our energy to fuel us.”

On the differences of COVID protocol: “We have our own separate water bottles, which I like anyway, even if we weren’t in this pandemic. With masks and things like that, obviously we can’t do too much contact right now, so that sucks preparing to play a Big Ten game. We just have the masks covering the bottom half of our face now. I can breathe fine, but it’s a little tough sometimes since I’m wearing a visor as well, so I really have no air access. Other than that, everything’s gone pretty smooth, just want to get back to contact.”

On needing to be in better shape with air restrictions: “Our coaching staff has been great with that. We get additional water breaks that we normally don’t have. It’s tough doing a five-play set when you can’t really breathe at all. I’d say we’re probably the best in-shape team in the country. We work hard every single day. Everything we do is at 100 percent.”

On holding people responsible: “It holds more weight when us players are leading the way in terms of social distancing. As a group we’ve been doing it, it starts with our unity council, which is our leaders of the teams. We try to hold younger guys accountable, social distancing, always washing our hands, trying to not hang out with so many people. I know it’s hard because when I was a freshman, I was young, I wanted to meet new people, so I know it’s gonna be hard for those guys, but they’re gonna have to do it. The seniors here are ready to play. They didn’t think they were gonna have their senior season, so we have to do it for them.”

On an unorthodox summer: “As a Big Ten player, I think I got a lot better this summer. We workout, send pictures through Snapchat, doing our own workouts separately, everyone came back in pretty good shape. We came back better, so I think it was a pretty good transition.”

On watching other teams play college football: “I haven’t watched too much college football because we’re supposed to be out there playing. It’s very tough. I’ve been watching a ton of NFL lately. I’ve caught a few college games where some of our former teammates are playing like Notre Dame. Guys I played with in high school are playing at Syracuse and a lot of schools around there, so I’ve definitely talked to them. The biggest difference is the fans. That’s what we’re going to miss the most, having that energy, having that edge.”

On potential injury concerns with shorter camp: “There’s not any concern. We have one of the best sports medicine and training staffs in the country. We have our practice set where we have two hard days then one day off for recovery. We’ll definitely be ready for that. We’re doing stuff in the weight room to get our bodies ready to stop those soft tissue injuries going around.”

On potential postponements/in-season road bumps: “Whatever games they give us, that’s the games we’ll play. We’re not really worried about what’s gonna get canceled or not. We’re just gonna take it week by week, day by day. If they’re allowing us to play, we’re going to play. If not, we’ll find a way and do whatever we need to. We’re not too worried about postponement. We’re focused on this first game.”

Peyton Ramsey

On difference between Indiana and NU practices: “There’s not a whole lot of difference. The one thing I’ll take away is that there’s a lot more chirping, more competition that goes on. It makes it more fun to practice every day when guys are competing and having fun with it. X’s and O’s, the way we structured practice, there’s a lot that’s similar. So learning that routine hasn’t been difficult for me.”

On the challenge of wearing a mask: “We have a little film that cover our mouth, but it’s a lot less demanding at my position because we don’t run around as much. Mentally, it’s a little harder as a quarterback because we’re not going against our defense as much as we’d like to. Identifying defenses and pressures, our sense of urgency and focus in the film room has to be paramount because we’re not getting all those reps we’d typically be getting during a fall camp.”

On building relationships: “Getting here in early June was a really big help. Football and the timing aspect came along with that, but more than anything the relationship piece and coming in and working out with the guys was really big. I haven’t done anything differently than I did at IU. I’ve never been a rah, rah pump you up kind of guy, always laid back. I’ll pick you up and lead you and insert myself when I need to, and I think the guys respect that piece of authenticity I bring.”

On football during the pandemic: “Football is still football...As long as there are people to lead us to the right decisions and protocols, it’s our job to go out and execute.”

On student teaching: “I had a 12 week student teaching assignment, I got 10 weeks in and had to finish my last two weeks remotely. It wasn’t something that the school of education at Indiana had prepared me for at all. It was a huge learning curve.”

On Mike Bajakian’s up-tempo offense: “We have a tempo, period, on air, but we’re running plays and immediately sprinting to the ball and getting to the next play. It will continue be an emphasis because it throws the defense off and cause a lot of problems, but it’s continued to improve and get better.”

On differences between IU’s and NU’s playbooks: “There’s not a whole lot, a little more play action, a little more 12 personnel with two tight ends in the action. But other than that, football is football, and it’s all about how you can scheme teams. For the most part everyone runs the same plays and the same routes. It’s just a matter of how you gameplay it. My former QB coach at IU was a QB coach under Coach Jake at Tennessee, so there’s some of the same verbiage and some carry over. There’s some subtle difference, but it’s mostly learning the terms and executing.”

Riley Lees

On mental health: “We’re just grateful to be able to play. We feel like everything we have set up with the Big Ten and all the testing protocols should be successful and that everybody should be safe and healthy.

On college football games being postponed: “I don’t think any of that stuff affects me or any of the rest of us. We’re just worried about what we can control. We’re going with the mindset that we’re prepping to play Maryland in 31 days. That’s our mindset every day.”

On daily life: “My life is football, then go home. Classes are online, and we’re just trying to stay in cohorts for as long as possible with who you live with at home. We’re not hiding, but we’re being smart with our decisions and not putting ourselves at risk.”

On explosive plays: “We need to be getting guys open in space that can do stuff with the football. It’s on us, the receivers and running backs, tight ends, to make it happen. We know that the quarterbacks will give us a chance, so we just got to make a play when the time comes.”

On differences between McCall and Bajakian: “Schematically, a curl flat is a curl flat. It is what it is; it’s more the terminology. Coach Jake has brought in a lot of energy. He’s very upbeat and a good teacher, and he’s making learning his offense very easy, a smooth transition. We’re picking it up day by day to master this offense and execute. A lot of us have picked it up very well. In the spring meetings we were able to get when we were quarantined, that helped a lot. Coming into fall camp, this is our fourth or fifth time going over day one through five.”

On Peyton Ramsey: “He works really hard, and that makes it really easy to work with him. We’ve become really close. He’s a good dude and a good leader.”

On if Coach Bajakian has indicated when he’ll name the starting QB: “No.”

On the challenge of masks during practice: “I don’t know if it’s harder. Camp is always hard. I get tired running four routes in a row anyway, film or no film. It is what it is.”

On preparing for the season: “I don’t think anything is going to change for my prep year to year, just preparing to be in that role. I’m going to try to be as much of a leader as possible and show the young guys how to be successful. I’m just going to try and do my job to the best of my ability to help up win football games.”

On testing protocols and position group meetings: “The D-Line room is the VR room. The chairs are more than six feet apart. Receivers meet in the team meeting room and sitting in different rows. We’re spacing it out and cutting down time in the rooms, being smart and socially distant.”