'Back to normal now': OU head coach Lincoln Riley dispels rumors following sudden media absence

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NORMAN — Even Lincoln Riley's mother was concerned.

When media members arrived at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Tuesday for Riley's weekly news conference, a team representative informed them that the OU head coach had "a matter arise" and would not be available.

The news generated quite the commotion and even caused Riley's name to briefly trend on Twitter, but he was back in the public limelight Thursday for a news conference two days before a big road test at Baylor.

"(It was) a personal matter that had nothing to do with my job, football or anything like that," Riley said. "Personal matter that I was dealing with, and I dealt with it. ... Back to normal now."

It isn't hard to see why people were concerned.

Riley's sudden absence came at a time when reports of a sports figure testing positive for COVID-19 seemingly pour in every day.

OU coach Lincoln Riley says he was out Tuesday dealing with a personal matter.
OU coach Lincoln Riley says he was out Tuesday dealing with a personal matter.

In college football, Cal announced on Tuesday that its game Saturday against USC was postponed due to numerous positive COVID-19 tests within the Golden Bears' program.

In the pro football, NFL Network reported Tuesday that Cleveland Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Demetric Felton both tested positive for COVID-19.

In the NBA, The Athletic reported Thursday that Chicago Bulls star Nikola Vucevic had entered the league's health and safety protocols after returning a positive test of his own.

Meanwhile, Riley was just taking care of business.

"My mom texted me and asked if I was OK," Riley said as he chuckled. "I was here, working and doing my thing. ... It was a lot more boring, I'm sure, than (speculation) out there."

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OU band legend passes away

Former OU band director Gene Thrailkill died Wednesday night.

Known affectionately as "Coach" by his former students, Thrailkill joined the OU faculty in 1971 after previously serving as Ohio University's band director. The Washington, Illinois, native went on to enjoy a 30-year run with the Sooners before retiring in 2001.

Thrailkill became the face of OU's marching band, which is referred to as the "Pride of Oklahoma," and he received numerous awards for his work.

The biggest honor bestowed upon Thrailkill came in 1996 when he was appointed Regents Professor.

The award is considered one of OU's most distinguished professorships. It recognizes a faculty member who has rendered outstanding service to the academic community or to an academic or professional discipline.

Thrailkill's impact in Norman can still be seen today. Current OU band director Brian Britt was a student of Thrailkill and a member of the Pride from 1983-1986.

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Injury updates

There's a chance OU will get a key contributor on each side of the ball Saturday.

Atop that list is Woodi Washington. The redshirt sophomore cornerback hasn't played since OU's win over Western Carolina on Sept. 11 due to an undisclosed injury.

"Woodi has done pretty good this week," Riley said. "We're cautiously optimistic... I do think he's close to being able to turn it loose. We'd love to have him (this week), but we're also trying to be smart for his future and the rest of the season."

Riley also provided an encouraging update on Mike Woods. The senior wide receiver hasn't played since OU's win over TCU on Oct. 16 due to an undisclosed injury but is nearing a return.

"(Woods) has been able to get a little bit of work this week," Riley said. "If he can continue to progress, I would expect him to be available on Saturday."

Other ongoing injuries include redshirt freshman safety Bryson Washington, redshirt sophomore defensive back Jeremiah Criddell and freshman wide receiver Cody Jackson.

Justin Martinez can be reached at jmartinez@oklahoman.com or @JTheSportsDude on Twitter. Make sure to subscribe to The Oklahoman to stay up to date with all local sports.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU football: Lincoln Riley dispels rumors following sudden absence

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