Illinois says it has no new positive COVID-19 tests among football players after QB Brandon Peters and tight end Griffin Moore sat out last week's game

Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune
·3 min read

Illinois football coach Lovie Smith said Monday the team has had no new positive COVID-19 tests among players after two infected players missed Saturday’s game against Purdue.

A staff member also previously tested positive, according to a team spokesman. The staffer, who was not identified, is not a coach.

Twelve other players had to sit out the 31-24 loss to Purdue, with seven of them quarantined because of contact tracing.

“With the amount of guys (out), you only have so many players,” Smith said in a video call with reporters. “We can’t afford any others. We can’t afford to have another group go out. We’re right at the border to be able to really practice the way we would like. At a few positions, we’re right at the minimum amount.”

Illinois announced before kickoff Saturday that starting quarterback Brandon Peters and backup tight end Griffin Moore tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. They have been asymptomatic, Smith said Monday.

“They’ll go through the process, but no symptoms really,” he said.

Offensive coordinator Rod Smith decided on his own to quarantine away from his family for a few days and limit his interaction with others. He said he took precautions because he repeatedly spent prolonged time in a room with Peters.

Rod Smith’s tests have come back negative.

Illinois coaches and players are tested daily in accordance with Big Ten rules.

“We’re in meetings for an hour at a time,” Rod Smith said. “There was obviously a right for concern. … I wanted to make sure. I knew I would get tested every day, but I quarantined from (my family) just in case. I tried to stay away from the quarterbacks as much as possible. I did that at least for 48 hours to make sure until my tests came back.”

Rod Smith said the Illini learned Peters’ viral load was low before his positive test came back, making them hopeful Peters was not extremely contagious.

Lovie Smith noted contact tracing has not revealed where Peters or Moore contracted COVID-19. But, he noted, as cases surge across the country, avoiding the virus altogether can be difficult.

“We live in this world,” he said. “As I see it, more and more positive tests are popping up everywhere. We’ll continue to talk to our guys about social distancing, washing their hands, keeping their masks on. We just hope that we continue to be lucky.”

The two Illinois players tested positive six days after playing in the season opener Oct. 23 at Wisconsin. The Badgers have at least 22 COVID-19 cases, athletic director Barry Alvarez told ESPN on Saturday.

“We left our state, yes,” Lovie Smith said. “We stayed in a hotel out of state, yes. But we were back here at home when we found out about it, so we have no idea.

“Guys don’t live in a bubble. It’s hard to trace it anyway. We’re constantly going over what we’re doing and keeping players as safe as possible. Sometimes things just happen.”

Illinois (0-2) hosts Minnesota (0-2) on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

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