Tennessee football arrives in Nashville with no COVID-19 issues ahead of Music City Bowl

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  • Josh Heupel
    Josh Heupel
    American football coach

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee football team arrived in Nashville with no COVID-19 issues, just as other bowl games are being canceled amid outbreaks.

Team spokesman Bill Martin said no players were in COVID-19 protocol on Sunday afternoon.

Coach Josh Heupel said UT’s team vaccination rate is “above 90%.” Vaccinated players are not tested for COVID-19 unless they are symptomatic. And Heupel indicated that there have been no outbreaks among the unvaccinated players, who are tested regularly.

"We've been very fortunate in that our guys that are non-vaccinated have done a great job taking care of themselves throughout the entire year," Heupel said. "And we'll continue to follow the testing protocol set forth by the league."

It’s a relief for the Vols and the TransPerfect Music City Bowl, which was canceled last year because of COVID-19.

The Vols (7-5) play against Purdue (8-4) on Thursday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Nissan Stadium.

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UT players traveled to visit their families during Christmas and returned Saturday night. The team’s first practice in Nashville was held Sunday at Vanderbilt Stadium, the usual site for the SEC participant in the Music City Bowl.

Head coach Josh Heupel interacts with players as they take the field for Tennessee’s first Nashville practice at Vanderbilt Stadium in preparation for their game in the Music City Bowl Sunday, December 26, 2021.
Head coach Josh Heupel interacts with players as they take the field for Tennessee’s first Nashville practice at Vanderbilt Stadium in preparation for their game in the Music City Bowl Sunday, December 26, 2021.

The first 15 minutes of practice were open to media, and Heupel answered questions afterward.

Purdue was set to arrive in Nashville on Sunday. Both teams are staying at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

The Music City Bowl announced its welcome party on Monday at the Wildhorse Saloon, the only joint player event, has been canceled out of an abundance of caution over COVID-19.

The teams are preparing for the Music City Bowl in the backdrop of a surge of positive COVID-19 cases nationally due to the omicron variant and the cancelation of other bowls due to its impact.

The Hawaii Bowl between Hawaii and Memphis, the Fenway Bowl between Virginia and SMU and the Military Bowl between Boston College and East Carolina have been canceled due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

Texas A&M pulled out of the Gator Bowl, citing a shortage of available scholarship players due to COVID-19 and various injuries. Rutgers is taking its spot despite a 5-7 record.

On Wednesday, as UT was breaking for Christmas, Heupel said the team was in a “good spot spot right now (and) really haven’t had many issues” with COVID-19. But he had concerns as players dispersed to their homes for a few days.

Reach Adam Sparks at adam.sparks@knoxnews.com and on Twitter @AdamSparks.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Tennessee football arrives in Nashville ahead of Music City Bowl

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