As Brian Cobbs sat in a hotel for four days — a measure Maryland football took to stop the spread of the team’s coronavirus outbreak — he felt cooped up.
The wide receiver couldn’t run routes or catch passes like usual. Cobbs was confined in a sense to what he could accomplish in his hotel room. He did pushups and core exercises. He studied the playbook and participated in Zoom meetings. Some of his teammates ran up and down the hallways. And then there were naps and homework — the latter of which lifted a weight off Cobbs.
“Although we couldn’t play, and it sucked not playing, kind of getting back to being like a normal student,” Cobbs said. “I was able to get a lot of classwork done that I was kind of stressed out about with practice.”
Cobbs can go back to being stressed about his coursework, though. The Terrapins are back from a two-week stoppage for a coronavirus outbreak that infected 23 players and seven staff members, including coach Mike Locksley.
Maryland faces a steep challenge on Saturday when it meets No. 12 Indiana in Bloomington. But the team hopes the mental work players put in during the pause — studying past games and practices to correct miscues — papers over any rust that might linger.
“Just staying clued into the mental aspect of the game of football,” defensive back Antwaine Richardson said. “The physical aspect, that’s a gift. But at the end of the day, if you have the mental aspect down pat, you can excel to greatness.”
Cobbs had a feeling the emergency meeting called a few days before the Terrapins were supposed to host Ohio State couldn’t be a good thing. The players were in the middle of a special teams meeting. They could guess the subject, but the official word was still a blow.
“We all didn’t believe it until it actually happened,” Cobbs said. “It was kind of like devastation.”
Initially, eight players tested positive during a seven-day span. That prompted the team to move into a hotel, and while numbers stabilized from the time spent in the pseudo-bubble, 15 more players tested positive the following week, causing the game against Michigan State to be scrapped, too.
According to Big Ten protocol, any players who test positive for the coronavirus must sit out for at least 21 days. Locksley said he didn’t know how many players would be missing from Saturday’s matchup, but he’ll be on the sideline for it — coaches must sit just 10 days after a positive test.
During the week, though, Locksley’s preparation for practice involved a different commute than usual: He just needed to open his laptop. From there, the coach could meet with his coaches, sharing the practice plan.
Then he’d watch a live stream of his team’s practice, and he could relay any instructions to his assistant coaches through Drew Hampton, the director of equipment operations.
“It’s business as usual,” Locksley said. “The difference is that I’m not at the office physically. But all the meetings that we normally have, and all the things we typically do, are being done on a normal weekly schedule.”
Maryland realizes Saturday’s game will be a difficult matchup against the Hoosiers and quarterback Michael Penix, who just threw for 491 yards and five touchdowns in a narrow loss last week against Ohio State.
But after two weeks off — and how cooped up players felt during that time — the Terrapins are grateful to be back on the field at all.
“My first time running on a treadmill last week, running kind of felt foreign,” Cobbs said with a laugh. “So getting back in the swing of things, that feels really good.”
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