As he discussed the impact the novel coronavirus pandemic has had on CAA football in recent weeks, UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso revealed Monday that he contracted the virus this past December.
“Didn’t do anything to get it,” Gattuso said. “It just was something that happened.”
Gattuso made the comment during the CAA’s weekly coaches’ teleconference with reporters while reacting to COVID-19 related pauses at James Madison and New Hampshire that have caused both teams to postpone multiple games.
James Madison, the No. 1-ranked team nationally in FCS, has postponed games each of the last two weeks due to pandemic-related protocols within its programs. New Hampshire, which UAlbany (1-2 CAA, 1-2 overall) beat 24-20 in its season-opener March 5, postponed its game this past weekend against Delaware and has already postponed this coming weekend’s game against Villanova.
UAlbany, Gattuso said, has been diligent in sticking to its health-and-safety protocols, but the team has also been fortunate to avoid any issues popping up since the team opened preseason in February.
“We test, we beg our kids to be diligent and stay out of all groups,” he said. “We’ve probably been more fortunate than anything.
“When presidents, governors, the prime minister of England get it, anybody’s susceptible. All you can do is try to be diligent and do the best you can. Heck, I even have a little string here I carry, so my mask is always around my neck, to do everything I can for my part of it.”
It was during the fall semester when the pandemic had its greatest effect on the UAlbany football program, and the school’s athletic department at large.
The entire UAlbany athletic department went through multiple extended pandemic-related pauses in the fall, and Gattuso’s team was not able to conduct a single practice in pads prior to the start of its winter preseason workouts.
While Gattuso acknowledged that he contracted the virus in December, the seventh-year head coach said his team has been fortunate to avoid any major pandemic-related issues thus far in the spring.
“Even though we’ve lost two tough, close games, we feel fortunate right now that we haven’t had to deal with too much other than the [COVID-19] protocols,” he said. “I pray every day that our kids stay healthy, and that all the players all around the country — in high schools and colleges — are able to continue to play.
“We’ve done everything we can to protect ourselves,” Gattuso said. “The kids have been diligent, they’ve worked hard at this, but at the end of the day, I think it’s almost hit-or-miss. All it takes is one or two kids to get you in trouble.”
Gattuso had little update to provide Monday on two key injuries that affected the Great Danes in Saturday’s 17-10 loss to Rhode Island.
Redshirt senior linebacker Levi Metheny left the game in the second quarter with what appeared to be a right arm injury, while redshirt sophomore wide receiver Tyler Oedekoven missed the game after picking up an undisclosed injury in the middle of last week.
The status of both players for this coming Saturday’s home game against Stony Brook is currently up in the air.
Metheny exited in the second quarter, returned to the field for a few plays the next series with his right arm heavily taped, then left again and did not return, with Jackson Ambush filling his shoes at inside linebacker.
“Levi, we’re just not sure,” Gattuso said. “He’ll see the doctors and get some testing today. That was a big loss in the second half. . . . Jackson Ambush played a really good game. Jumping in for Levi’s not an easy deal, and he ran the defense. He did a great job. We expect really good things out of him, but we’d sure love to get Levi Metheny back. He’s a heck of a football player, he’s the heart and soul [of our team].”
Oedekoven caught 13 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown in UAlbany’s first two games, but Gattuso said the receiver came up hurt during the week. Oedekoven tried to warm up Saturday, but eventually was ruled out and spent the game on the sidelines with his helmet off.
“We don’t know what happened. He doesn’t know what happened last week,” Gattuso said. “All of a sudden, he had an issue. He tried to warm up, he actually went out and ran around a little bit, but he just doesn’t have any ability to cut. We’ll see. We’re hoping by Wednesday he can take his regular practice rotation.”