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N’western back on field

College football

Northwestern returned to the football field for the first time since a false positive for COVID-19 led to 37 players being quarantined and workouts being paused.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald said after the start of camp the Wildcats still are “batting a thousand” after a player who tested for the virus last week did not have it after all.

“I think it showed us that our plan and our execution of our plan has been flawless,” he said.

Fitzgerald was at dinner July 31 when he learned about the positive result and that contact tracing protocols were being enacted. The decision to put workouts on hold was made after team physician Jeff Mjaanes consulted with Northwestern University Health Services doctors.

Fitzgerald said they learned Wednesday afternoon after more tests that no one had the virus. He also said workouts this week would have been lighter anyway. They could have resumed Thursday, but Fitzgerald opted to wait until the start of camp.

“Really proud of our guys with the choices they’re making,” he said. “It’s not a four-hour problem that they’re in the building; it’s the other 20 hours that I think’s a challenge for every college football player and every college student.”

QB considered it

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence said he considered opting out of this season when he was unsure what college football would look like going forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But Lawrence said Friday once he understood he’d play an 11-game season with a chance for an Atlantic Coast Conference and national championships, he decided to play his junior season.

Lawrence is considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy and a likely No. 1 overall pick in the next NFL draft should he leave college early.

Lawrence said he’s completely committed to this season. Lawrence was 25-0 as a starter until he and Clemson fell to LSU in the national title game last January. Lawrence, the 6-foot-6 junior, had perhaps his poorest performance in college in the 42-25 loss to LSU. He joked how after his freshman year when he led Clemson to a championship he heard how amazing he was and since the LSU defeat, he heard how much work he has to do improve.

Elsewhere:

n Conference USA is leaving open the option for its schools to play a full 12-game football schedule. The league’s board of directors said Friday that the initial conference schedule, with each team playing eight C-USA games, will remain intact. The first conference game is Sept. 12. League schools will also be allowed to play up to four non-conference games at their discretion.

n North Carolina defensive backs D.J. Ford, Javon Terry and Bryce Watts have opted out of playing this season due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

n The Big Sky Conference postponed its football season to the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic and called for the FCS playoffs to be moved to the second semester as well. The Big Sky’s decision all but officially ends any chance of the FCS playoffs, which are an NCAA-sponsored event unlike the College Football Playoff which crowns a champion at the highest level of Division I, being held in the fall. Earlier in the week, the NCAA announced each of its three divisions would determine whether national championship events should be held in fall sports.

n Maryland senior quarterback Josh Jackson has opted out of the upcoming football season, leaving the Terrapins with very little depth and experience at the pivotal position. Jackson is the most prominent of six Maryland players who have decided not to play in 2020 for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, coach Michael Locksley said during a teleconference Friday.

n Duke coach David Cutcliffe says long snapper Ben Wyatt and offensive tackle Jacob Rimmer have opted out of playing this season because of concerns about the coronavirus.

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