Virginia Tech star cornerback Caleb Farley, who has opted out of the 2020 football season because of COVID-19 concern, did not feel safe during the Hokies’ recent workouts, he wrote in a column posted on ProFootballTalk.com.
“I started having deep concerns about staying healthy,” Farley wrote in the article, posted to the website on Sunday. “Guys were going home, going to Myrtle Beach, coming back to campus, and we weren’t getting tested. We’re all together, working out, close to each other, and you have no real idea who might have it, if anybody might have it. One day I looked around, and we were like 100-deep in our indoor facility, no masks. My concern grew more and more.”
A Virginia Tech football spokesperson said Monday, “We will decline the opportunity to address Caleb’s comments directly.”
He did note that Tech works out at its indoor facility with the large garage-style doors open, and so it’s considered an open-air situation.
Later in the afternoon, coach Justin Fuente released a statement that did not address the specifics of Farley’s concerns.
“I spoke with Caleb earlier today and I feel much better about the context of his comments regarding his personal concerns regarding COVID-19,” the statement read. “In our conversation I also told Caleb that I will always love and support him and that I’m looking forward to cheering him on as he pursues his dream of playing in the National Football League.”
The athletic department’s chief medical officer, Dr. Mark Rogers, said in a statement Monday afternoon, that at the university, “all Virginia Tech student-athletes are tested for COVID-19 and screened before being cleared to participate in any athletic activities. In addition, follow-up testing protocols are performed on a regular basis in accordance with Centers for Disease Control, ACC and NCAA recommendations.”
Rogers’ statement indicated that, because the Beamer-Lawson indoor facility is being considered an open-air facility, players are not required to wear the personal protective equipment, including masks, they’ve been issued.
Fuente, who has not been available to the media since April, appeared on a fan podcast Monday and addressed the COVID-19 safety issue.
“The thing I worry about with our kids is that they are kids and we only have them for a couple hours a day,” Fuente said during an appearance on the Sons of Saturday podcast. “There is a whole lot of the rest of the day where we have to try and get across to them the importance of maintaining these same standards when they aren’t with us.”
Farley, a potential first-round NFL draft selection, will spend the upcoming months preparing for the draft.
As a junior, the North Carolina native led the ACC with 16 passes defended and tied for second in the conference with four interceptions.
Farley said last week that he would skip the season, noting his mother, Robin, died from cancer two years ago, and he feared exposing any other family members to COVID-19.
“This was the toughest decision of my life. I live for football,” he wrote in the article, part of NFL writer Peter King’s Football Morning in America series. “But now that I’ve made the decision, I am totally at peace. I know I’ve done the right thing.”
On June 1, Tech allowed football players back on campus for voluntary workouts. At that point, the school would not confirm whether or not it was testing athletes for COVID-19. The program’s statement said only that players would “undergo screening protocols prior to being cleared to participate and will be monitored on a daily basis.”
The Tech athletics spokesperson said results from COVID-19 testing would not be released to the public.
“The guidelines we follow are consistent with this guidance. We have no plans to change our protocol,” he said.
The spokesperson noted that the coaching staff is using face shields while working with players.
The ACC’s current plan is to kick off the football season the week of Sept. 7-12.
The conference’s medical advisory group, on which each school has a representative, announced minimum in-season testing protocols last week. That group has not addressed preseason testing.
There are four FBS football programs in Virginia. Two of them, UVA and Old Dominion, have shared their testing results with the public.
The other two, Virginia Tech and Liberty, have not.