Mac Jones, Najee Harris praise Alabama athletics' COVID-19 protocols

Brett Hudson
The Tuscaloosa News

This story originally published Aug. 14, 2020.

University of Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne argued Thursday that his athletic department has been at the forefront of encouraging mask-wearing, a place UA has tried to own through its social media accounts. Consistent visuals of players and coaches in masks and examples of health and safety protocols are frequent.

On Friday, UA football players endorsed the new normal fully.

UA quarterback Mac Jones and running back Najee Harris held a Zoom call with media Friday on which they both praised the health and safety measures and used them as further justification of their involvement in the #WeWantToPlay movement.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to do it correctly: testing three times a week, we’re having speakers come in to talk about the coronavirus and what we can do, meeting with the SEC, Coach (Nick) Saban and our position coaches,” Jones said. “Everything is transparent. We don’t know everything, but we’re doing the best we can. As the summer went on, we got a lot better at doing everything the right way.”

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) before the Arkansas game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday October 26, 2019.

Harris added, “One thing I want to say is that we’ve done a good job in the facility keeping everything as safe as possible, as clean as possible. We installed these new air humidifiers to kill all the germs in the air. We got a lot of hand sanitizers everywhere around. We get tested I feel like more than we practice, and that’s a good thing.

"Obviously we’re wearing all these masks. We get our temperatures tested every time we walk in the building.”

UA’s transition into an offseason filled with atypical health and safety protocols could have been made more difficult since it was also transitioning its strength and conditioning department from one run by Scott Cochran to the new brain trust of David Ballou and Matt Rhea. Jones said no complications have been felt thus far.

“Coming back here, I feel like our new strength staff has done a really good job,” he said. “Coach Ballou ... Rhea and everybody combining for a plan to get us stronger and get us faster in a short amount of time, all while doing it safely.”

For the time being, the SEC plans on playing the 10-game schedule it has set for the 2020 season, one that could have dates assigned to it soon. What remains more uncertain is what, if any, postseason follows it.

The College Football Playoff said it is conducting business virtually but still carrying on, despite two of the Power 5 conferences having canceled fall sports.

Jones said UA’s vision remains on a national championship, while one is still attainable.

“That’s why we all came here, to play for the national championship,” Jones said. “Obviously I can’t tell you what we’re going to do or not, but the College Football Playoff is a separate organization from the NCAA and it seems like they want to move forward, as well.”