ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart called it “mental agility,” and his Bulldogs were among the best at it in the nation.
Smart, referring to what it would take for his program to weather the COVID-19 pandemic last season, cited discipline and his players’ ability to adapt. And that’s just what they did, finishing as one of the few teams that didn’t have to pause or trigger a postponement or cancellation on account of COVID-19.
The Bulldogs had 36 players test positive for COVID-19 between the time they returned to campus in June and the end of fall semester. Another 29 players missed time in quarantine on account of exposure, according to information DawgNation required via an open records request.
Smart and his coaching staff recently got vaccinated with pictures being posted on the Piedmont Healthcare social media account.
Look who’s getting vaccines now! 🐶
We vaccinated @GeorgiaFootball Coach Kirby Smart, as well as other coaches and staff. Coach Smart wanted to set a good example for his team, and we’re thrilled to have helped. #GetTheShotGA pic.twitter.com/Y45uSKwYXT
— Piedmont Healthcare (@PiedmontHealth) March 30, 2021
As of Friday morning, 49.2 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 and over had received at least one of the vaccination shots or recovered from COVID-19 (37.9 percent have been vaccinated).
There are currently 13,970 active COVID-19 cases in Georgia, which represents 0.13 percent of the state’s population, per Mark Kooyman, CEO / Discovery Chief of Experience Insight group.
The Bulldogs are halfway through the spring football session and looking to finish strong. Most COVID-19 protocols remain in place, and Smart made it clear Georgia football is not lowering its guard.
“I know Ron Courson and his staff constantly get updates from the medical group that he’s in charge of., (and) they do a tremendous job of staying up to date on whether its variance, the different variances that come into the country, or testing methods, going from swab in nose to saliva,” Smart said. “There are all kinds of updates for us but not necessarily enlightening. Only time will tell. The indicators and the numbers have been positive lately that things are on the decline and it’s certainly been that way for us as well.”
The NFL recently announced its planning on full stadiums, bringing optimism that Sanford Stadium might also be able to return to capacity crowds this fall.
Last season was disappointing with attendance limited to some 20,000 and players working fruitlessly for games that wound up being postponed or, in the case of Vanderbilt, canceled altogether.
“You would practice all week, and you’d get to Thursday and kind of be like, ‘we’re ready to go,’ and then bam, the game is canceled,” Smart said “I’m like ‘wait, we just practiced four or five days for this. So now you’re telling me we’re going to play that team in two weeks?’ And the kids are like, ‘we’re got to practice again for four or five days to get ready? That got to be taxing mentally on them, and it was tough not knowing the unknown.”
Things aren’t completely clear yet, but there’s more optimism.
It’s clear from how Georgia handled the COVID-19 crisis last season, the numbers released telling, that the Bulldogs are trending in the right direction.
UGA also released that the total number of Olympic sport athletes to test positive for COVID-19 from returning in June through the end of the fall semester was 84, and another 119 were quarantined on account of contact.
Georgia released that “more than 22,000 COVID-19 PCR tests” were conducted from athletes returning in June through the end of the 2020 fall semester.