TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The flu has infiltrated the Alabama football team.
Coach Nick Saban said “four or five” of his players have contracted the virus that has affected students on campus since they began arriving for classes two weeks ago.
Terrence Cody, the hulking nose tackle, was the only player named as he missed the last two practices.
Precautions to keep the problem from worsening began immediately. Sick players were quarantined in their dorm, 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 virus, known as the swine flu, among Alabama 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 as the Crimson Tide prepare for the Sept. 5 season opener with Virginia Tech.
Those who were affected had been sick for about “two to three days,” Saban said.
Along with talks about staying clean, players received a package put in their lockers that included tissues, hand sanitizers and Clorox wipes.
Players who spoke with reporters following Thursday’s practice said the medical staff had been proactive in helping prevent the virus’ spread.
Cornerback Kareem Jackson said he is confident the issue soon will pass.
“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,” he said.
Offensive lineman Mike Johnson, who often goes against 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,” he said. “I don’t need none of that.”
Jackson, however, said he saw 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 pounds before the season started. Saban said he needed to reach that weight before Cody would be permitted to play in passing situations.