published Friday, August 28th, 2009

Flu virus hits Alabama football team

By Michael Casagrande

Decatur (Ala.) Daily

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama flu spate has infiltrated the football team.

Coach Nick Saban said "four or five" of his players have contracted the virus that has affected students since they began arriving for classes two weeks ago.

Terrence Cody, the hulking nose tackle, was the only player named as being sick as he missed the last two practices.

Precautions to keep the problem from worsening began immediately. Sick players were quarantined in their dorms, and proper sanitation has been preached to the rest of the team.

The issue didn't crop up, Saban said, until after the roster expanded on the first day of classes. The Associated Press reported as many as 50 cases of the H1N1 or swine flu among UA students when classes started Aug. 19. The strain that has sickened football players was not identified in Thursday's news conference.

"We've got some involvement with the students, and all of a sudden we had some guys that have had a problem with it," Saban said.

There was another group of four or five players who had an upper respiratory infection but no fever. Those players did not miss practice time as the Crimson Tide prepare for the Sept. 5 season opener with Virginia Tech.

"We're doing as much as we can to prevent this," Saban said. "We're very hopeful that this does not become an issue for college football or sports this fall."

Those who were affected had been sick for about "two to three days," he noted.

Along with talks about staying clean, players received a package including tissues and hand sanitizers, and Clorox wipes were put in lockers.

Players who spoke with reporters following Thursday's practice said the medical staff had been proactive in helping prevent the spread of the virus. Cornerback Kareem Jackson was confident the issue would soon pass.

"It's not really a big issue. A couple of guys might come down with a little cough or something," he said. "It won't stop us from doing what we have to do as far as playing ball and focusing on the little things and getting ready for this game."

Offensive lineman Mike Johnson, who routinely blocks Cody in practice, said everyone is taking the proper precautions.

"We haven't seen Terrence in a little while, so hopefully he can knock that out before I have any chance at contamination. I don't need none of that."

Jackson, however, said he ran into Cody on campus Wednesday and Thursday.

"I guess he's all right," Jackson said. "I didn't really ask him about that. I know he told me he hadn't eaten in two days, but I find that hard to believe. I told him you can't kid a kidder."

Cody, who weighed 355 pounds when practice opened Aug. 6, had a goal of falling below 348 before the season started. It was that weight Saban said he needed to reach before Cody would be permitted to play in obvious passing situations.

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