September 10, 2009

Flu outbreak not affecting game preparation

MADISON, Wis. - Should the news that at least 10 players on the Wisconsin football team having flu-like have hit in April or May, hysteria would have likely ensued.

Back then, H1N1, or swine flu, coverage was embedded within each network and cable channel and discussed as the next natural disaster poised to wipe out copious amounts of people worldwide.

When news finally did break Tuesday evening at UW football headquarters, it seemed the trainers and coaching staff had a plan in place that would effectively quarantine the problem and allow the team to proceed with game preparation.

But for the players, it still hit a little too close. So much so that precautions were no longer suggestions. Instead, washing hands, using sanitizer and staying plenty hydrated became a must in daily routines.

"I have never been one of those guys to really get sick," UW senior O'Brien Schofield said following Wednesday's practice. "So when I do, I'm very dramatic about it. I'm just lucky on the safe end to be healthy. But, I'm still taking those precautionary measures because I'm still around it everyday."

According to UW officials, two players with flu-like symptoms were reported as early as Sunday. On Monday, two more fell ill only to have several more feel sick Tuesday. As of the end of Wednesday's practice, though, it seems the worst of the bug may be over.

"The training staff has done an amazing job getting us back," Schofield said. "Coach is giving us some time off to get some rest just to hydrate and stay off our feet. So I think that's nice that he's cutting back.

"Then again, we have to do overtime and do extra work in the film room so we can replace those reps that we're missing on the practice field."

With its week two opponent waiting in the wings, the Badgers have not had much time to deal with in recuperating from this illness. With at least 10 players affected, it is of legitimate concern that preparation leading into Saturday's game could be effected.

However, that simply is not the case according to several UW players.

"Some people are kind of sick, but everybody has been out here practicing hard," sophomore John Clay said. "You really can't tell who's sick or not even 100 percent because this is a big game coming up."

Fellow running back Zach Brown, who has been washing his hands religiously over the past few days, agrees with Clay.

"The doctors, they know it takes to get us right for Saturday," Brown said. "That's what we've been doing so I think we'll be fine."

As of Thursday afternoon, no cases can be confirmed as H1N1. And the team is focused on Fresno State and not allowing the sickness to prohibit themselves from performing well Saturday afternoon.

"I think it's a challenge for our mental and physical toughness," Schofield said. "This is something, just because guys aren't feeling well, Fresno State doesn't care about that. That's not going to stop them from coming in here and being eager to win.

"So, it's something that we got to bounce back from and be ready to play and come prepared willing to win and fight our hardest."

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