Greg Newsome.

Team leaders of the Northwestern University football team say the Wildcats are not worrying about any of their games getting postponed or canceled due to COVID-19 in the upcoming Big Ten season.

“I don’t think any of that affects me,” said senior wide receiver Riley Lees. “We’re just worrying about what we can control.”

Lees, junior defensive back Greg Newsome II, and quarterback Peyton Ramsey, a graduate student transfer, talked with reporters this morning on Zoom.

Notre Dame had to postpone this Saturday’s game with Wake Forest, as seven Irish players tested positive for COVID-19. Other major college teams such as Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Baylor have had games cancelled due to the virus.

The Wildcats aren’t ignoring COVID. During practice, they either wear masks or a small film which covers their mouths, depending on what position they play. “I can breathe pretty well,” Newsome said.

There is social distancing in the locker room and limited contact with others outside of practice. “We’re not hiding,” said Lees, “but we’re making smart decisions to keep ourselves safe.” Life is mostly football and taking on-line classes, he said.

As for losing any games to the virus rather than to an on-the-field opponent, Newsome said “whatever games they give us are the games we’ll play. We’ll take it week at a time. I’m not too worried about postponement,” just focusing on the first game of the delayed-but-now-back-on Big Ten season.

Ramsey had a different situation than did any other Wildcat player. In the spring, Ramsey was wrapping up his undergraduate degree at Indiana University, on a 12-week student teaching assignment in Bloomington, when the virus shut everything down.

The lockdown, he said, began the day before spring break. Ramsey had two more weeks of student teaching, which had to be done via Zoom. “It was a huge learning process,” he said. No one was really ready for remote learning. “Teaching through Zoom was difficult,” Ramsey noted, “but it was only two weeks and I made the most of it.”

Ramsey played quarterback in high school for his dad, Coach Doug Ramsey, at Elder High School in Cincinnati. Elder has already played four games. Peyton Ramsey said he’s talked to his father about football during the pandemic. The conclusion: “football is football. Go out and execute,” with one difference this season. “Follow the protocols” for health and safety.

While the Big Ten is bringing back football, other fall sports such as soccer and cross country have been postponed until the spring. Because of that, Newsome said, “we have to play for the other sports that don’t have the opportunity to play.” The Wildcats, he said, will have a “chip on their shoulders” to honor the other athletes who can’t participate.

Northwestern opens against Maryland on Oct. 24 at Ryan Field. But the 47,000 seats will be empty, as tickets are not being sold to the public for Big Ten games. “That’s what we’ll miss the most,” Newsome said. “The fans, the energy.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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