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head coach PJ Fleck walks down the sideline listening to headset during game
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Shorthanded Gophers Ready to Play Huskers Without Rashod Bateman

December 10, 2020

This weekend the Huskers are scheduled to battle with Minnesota at Memorial Stadium. The game will kick off at 11 a.m. and will be the rubber match between the two young head coaches, Scott Frost and PJ Fleck. Getting to this game has been an adventure for Minnesota. It’s missed the last two games due to COVID-19 cases. Because of the Big Ten’s 21-day rule for players it’s expected the Gophers will be without several players.

“We are going to have players unavailable because of the COVID 21-day protocol. More than 20-plus players that are not available,” Fleck said. “Just from that. Not including injuries or anything like that.”

“There’s that 21-day protocol that still keeps kids out for that long. That’s why we’re in that position that we’re in. But definitely north of 20 players will be missing just from COVID, and then you add in the injuries. This is what it is.”

Fleck believes that most if not all Minnesota coaches will be able to coach in the game on Saturday. Coaches have a 10-day window to sit out before returning to action following a positive test. Fleck and his coaches will not be able to coach star wide receiver Rashod Bateman again this season. The talented wideout opted back out of the 2020 season after the program paused activities following the Nov. 20 win over Purdue. Fleck empathizes with how tough this year has been on his players.

“This is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding where they’re coming from. I know Rashod’s teammates have done that as well,” Fleck said.

“There’s a F.A.M.I.L.Y., Forget About Me I Love You. And there’s certain things that people have to do that they feel is right. And we’re going to support it. He was absolutely awesome to the state of Minnesota, to our university, to our Twin Cities area and made a change in our Twin City area. He’s an advocate of our program, a special person, and for him to be able to do that at the next level in the NFL represent the University of Minnesota. I can’t wait to see him do it.”

Because of timing with positive tests, Minnesota will have players who’s seasons are over. There is a challenge for Fleck and his staff beyond football. They have to remind players about the balance of preparing for right now versus what could be next year. Eligibility being frozen by the NCAA for this year, each player who will have a shortened season is eligible to come back next year.

“That’d be how they ended their year, but they get a chance to come back next year and you want to keep that hope out there,” Fleck said. “That carrot in front of them because like I’ve said before, the number one thing I care about in this program is our players.

“Our players and our staff’s mental health. We have incredible resources here, and we want our players to continue to get proactive education to use it. We just maybe can’t see the forest through the trees just yet. But you’ve got to keep that out there for them.”

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