There will be football in Lincoln on Saturday.
Minnesota football coach P.J. Fleck told reporters Monday that the Gophers are planning to play Saturday's game against Nebraska after a COVID-19 outbreak within the locker room kept the team from playing the previous two weekends.
Minnesota has not had any positive COVID-19 tests since Thursday, Fleck said. However, the Gophers will be shorthanded against the Huskers at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"As of right now — everything changes by the minute — but we plan on playing Nebraska on Saturday and we (have) prepared accordingly," Fleck said.
Fleck said more than 20 players will be unavailable under Big Ten COVID protocols. Players who test positive must sit out 21 days before returning to competition. Nearly 50 players and staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus since Nov. 24. Fifteen individuals tested positive Nov. 24, 10 tested positive Nov. 25 and 15 more tested positive Nov. 28.
"This is what it is, but our players and the guys that were out there did a great job practicing Sunday, and really look forward to playing again," Fleck said. "It's never our call whether we play or not."
Fleck said the more than 20 players unavailable for Saturday's contest are related to COVID-19 and that doesn't count any players out because of injury. There also was the opt-out decision of star wideout Rashod Bateman, who wants to turn his focus to the NFL Draft.
Minnesota has not played since a 34-31 win against Purdue on Nov. 20. Games against Wisconsin (Nov. 28) and Northwestern (Dec. 5) were canceled after Minnesota had to pause activities.
Sunday marked Minnesota's first padded practice since the Purdue game, Fleck noted. The Gophers started light acclimatization workouts Wednesday.
Fleck went to bat for his players and staff, saying the outbreak was not a result of carelessness.
"I think that's there is a reputation of COVID-19 that if you get it, you must have done something wrong," Fleck said. "Like, "How'd you get? Where'd you get it?' Especially in athletics.
"I worry about this mental health component of 'I got it, but coach, I followed every single thing, every protocol, everything we're doing and I somehow still got it.' That's the ghost in the room and it's (hard) to eliminate it and say, 'We won't get it.' We're a city of three million people, 55,000 students on campus, we have a younger football team. There's a lot of different things involved in all of this."