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IOWA CITY — Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz will not tell his players what to do about vaccination, but he will suggest that the NCAA compromise on its new strict practice guidelines.
One week into fall camp, Ferentz had strong feelings about the impact both have had on preparing his team for the upcoming season, noting that COVID-19 has been Iowa’s No. 1 opponent since last March.
“I did make a comment back in Indianapolis about our situation — I think I said we're in the mid 70(%)s (vaccination rate) — and that number has gone up,” Ferentz said. “That's our No. 1 priority: to educate our players about what the protocols are going to be and just what we all feel is probably in their best interest. We still have guys that are in the process of getting vaccinated, at least a handful tomorrow. So when September rolls around, we expect to be in a pretty good position.”
The NCAA released new protocols on returning to play this August, notably saying that players who are partially or not vaccinated will still have to undergo regular surveillance testing based on community spread and a PCR test within three days of competition or antigen testing within a day of competition. Fully vaccinated individuals won’t have to quarantine if they come into close contact with an infected person.
Last summer, Ferentz noted, now-junior quarterback Spencer Petras missed nearly 30 days of practice due to quarantine procedures. He was never infected with the virus during that time. While the vaccination is not mandated and will not be mandated in the future, Ferentz said that he heard one compelling reason from a player as to why he wasn’t vaccinated.
Other than that, he said while vaccinations aren’t foolproof in prevention with the rising rates of other variants, he tries to emphasize that it’s a controllable way for players to maximize their short-lived time on campus. Injuries aren’t as avoidable.
“If you're vaccinated, you're free from contract tracing, which is huge, and that's where that was a thing we really had to deal with last year,” Ferentz said. “When you're part of the team, whatever you do or whatever happens to you impacts everybody else. That's a reality. So just I've asked all of our guys to consider that a little bit and keep it in mind as they make decisions.”
Kirk Ferentz has a suggestion (not a complaint) for the NCAA
Vaccination wasn’t the only topic of media day — Ferentz had a lot to say about the NCAA’s new practice guidelines released in May. The new rules reduce contact days from 21 to 18, limiting full-padded practices to nine with the remaining being shells-only and for no more than 75 minutes of full contact for a maximum of two consecutive days.
“Well, we're ahead of the NFL,” Ferentz said. “I talked to my son yesterday, and I think they had had four padded practices and played last night, which to me seems ludicrous, but what do I know?”
Ferentz said he’s not making a complaint, but a suggestion: give the teams more time to practice to increase the recovery time and put an emphasis on the quality of practice. The team won’t reach the maximum number of possible fall camp practices this year (25), missing by a day, he said there’s no way he can get it all done with adequate recovery for his players.
He left that topic on a lasting note.
“I've done two things in 23 years, that actually are in the books now: they’ll review onside kickoffs after we've gotten the short end of two of those. We got screwed on an illegal play,” Ferentz said. “This year they slipped the spider pads. We call them shells. I've been advocating for that for I don't know how many years. Probably more than six. So maybe — how old am I right now? Sixty-six. If I'm 75 we'll probably get those extra days.”
Iowa senior right guard Kyler Schott will miss the first few games due to a foot injury.
“He was at home helping bailing hay, and I think he's the first guy, at least in 23 years, I can remember that got injured bailing hay,” Ferentz said. “He jumped off a bail and landed on his foot, so he's probably going to miss some playing time early in this season. I can't tell you when, if it'll be the second week, third week or fourth week. But we expect him back somewhere in the first portion of the season, but he will not be ready early.”
For now, Ferentz said that sophomore Justin Britt has stepped in at the position, but will still continue to evaluate. In addition, true freshman Brody Brecht was seen with a thumb injury.
Field gets a new look
The field at Kinnick Stadium will now be officially called, “Duke Slater Field,” in honor of Iowa’s first Black student-athlete to earn All-America honors at Iowa and first Black NFL lineman. The field got a new paint job following the approval by the Iowa Board of Regents.
Slater was recently posthumously inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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