Still working back from COVID, Ohio State cancels game against New Orleans
Ohio State is making its way back from a COVID-19 pause, but it won’t be in enough time to play Tuesday night.
Although the Buckeyes returned to practice Sunday with hopes of playing soon, they canceled their Tuesday tipoff against New Orleans at Value City Arena due to the long layoff they have experienced since an outbreak of the virus forced the program to shut down nearly two weeks ago.
While games against Kentucky and Tennessee-Martin were wiped out due to COVID-19 within the program, this cancellation is strictly about protecting players by giving them enough time to get back into game shape. With more than half the roster in the process of returning from the virus, multiple Buckeyes have just resumed workouts.
“Our guys are progressing through the COVID return-to-play protocols well, but we just don’t have the numbers or readiness to play a game yet,” coach Chris Holtmann said in a statement. “Player safety as it relates to COVID and as they return to play after a significant time off will always be a top priority.”
On his weekly radio show, Holtmann said the Buckeyes had five players at last Sunday's practice, one of whom isn't eligible to play this season. More players returned to practice Monday, allowing them to start ramping up activities leading into this Sunday's game at Nebraska.
Prior to this past weekend, Ohio State's last full team practice was Dec. 15. That one had considerably more than five players.
All players who test positive for the virus must isolate for 10 days. After then testing negative and passing a heart screening, they are allowed to resume team activities.
Ohio State's players were allowed to go home for Christmas before returning to campus for Sunday’s workout. During the pause, some Buckeyes, like Malaki Branham, were able to put in work with personal trainers.
However, that certainly wasn't the case for all.
“The ones that test positive are encouraged not to do anything for their 10-day quarantine period,” Holtmann said on Monday's radio show. “They’re not allowed to elevate their heart rate past a certain point. Then they have a procedure once they get the heart testing done where it’s a return to play, but that takes some time too. It’s not like you’re jumping in that first day. There’s a progression to it.”
It’s unclear exactly how many players tested positive or when they did so.
Ohio State practiced for roughly an hour Sunday, with the available athletes lifting weights and practicing again Monday morning.
For that reason, Ohio State is optimistic about returning to action this weekend. The game against the Cornhuskers will be the first for the Buckeyes since a 73-55 win against Wisconsin on Dec. 11.
"We need to get back to practicing with more than four or five guys,” Holtmann said. “When you can do that, we have enough depth where when we do have the numbers we should be able to have some good, challenging, competitive practices.”