Nov 30, 2019; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn looks on during warm-ups before the game between the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn has 16 players sidelined due to COVID-19 concerns

The Auburn football team will be without 16 players due to coronavirus concerns when it resumes practice on Tuesday, coach Gus Malzahn said.

Malzahn told reporters on Sunday that the team has nine players who have tested positive for COVID-19 and seven others who are deemed as high risk.

“We’re learning as we go here. Every day and every week is a challenge,” Malzahn said, according to 247Sports.

Malzahn revealed that two position groups had been impacted to an extent that the Tigers didn’t have full practices over the last few days.

NCAA guidelines require players who test positive to sit out for 10 days, and players who have had “high risk” contact with players who test positive have to sit out for 14 days. “High risk” contact is defined as 15 consecutive minutes in close contact while not wearing a mask or face covering.

Per Malzahn, Auburn protocols require at least 17 days before a player can return from a positive COVID-19 test. That includes a 10-day quarantine and a seven-day “re-acclimation period” before being fully cleared.

The SEC is using a 10-game conference-only scheduling format for this year because of the pandemic. The Tigers open the season Sept. 26 at home against Kentucky.

“There’s definitely an urgency, but the bottom line is the health and safety of our players is always going to be first,” Malzahn said. “When you’re going through this, there’s a competitive side, but we’re always going to put our team first — the mental and physical health of our players. Yeah, we understand we’re four weeks out. We feel like we have time to prepare.”

Cases of the coronavirus are rising at some SEC campuses.

At Alabama, more than 1,000 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since classes resumed Aug. 19, according to the University of Alabama system. And at South Carolina, where classes began Aug. 20, 620 students had tested positive for the virus as of Thursday, the school confirmed.

–Field Level Media