Florida returned to practice Monday for the first time in nearly two weeks, though coach Dan Mullen would not say how many players he would have available when the Gators play Saturday against Missouri.
The Gators stopped all football activities Oct. 13 after a coronavirus outbreak spread through the team. Mullen and two assistants also tested positive, with at least 26 players positive since that time.
Mullen, who is out of isolation and back at the football facility, said the team received its last positive test Saturday. Athletic director Scott Stricklin said after the first positive tests that the entire team went into quarantine out of an abundance of caution.
Mullen wouldn't say how many players he would have at practice Monday, only saying that the Gators would have the league-minimum 53 players for the game.
"Everybody's really excited to get back to football and get back playing," Mullen said on a video call with reporters. "I think that's something that is big within the team right now is that ability to get back out on the field. This year's been a unique year like no other, with stops and starts and different schedules. Our guys have handled everything extremely well throughout the year. I think they're going to be really excited to get back out there on the practice field.
"I don't expect us to come out there and have our sharpest, most crisp practice of the year, but I expect us to have great energy, excitement and enthusiasm to be back out there to get going as we build up to Saturday."
Mullen said he only experienced mild symptoms and added for the players who tested positive, "We feel that we have not a whole lot of major issues or anything that we've seen be really serious to this point." He added that the coaching staff is approaching practice as if it is coming off a double bye week and the biggest focus for Monday was "us just getting our guys into the regular game week routine."
During their time away from football, the Gators were unable to work out. Mullen said those who tested positive and are cleared to resume practice will have a slow build-up to their return. Florida last played on Oct. 10, a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M, a road trip both Mullen and Stricklin have zeroed in on as causing the outbreak after one or two people unknowingly traveled with the virus and tested positive upon their return home.
Florida had not had many positives until it returned from that trip, Mullen pointed out.
"We always knew travel was going to be a concern and an issue for us," Mullen said. "We got through Game 1 without an issue and we thought, 'OK we're headed in the right direction.' Unfortunately, you throw the virus in the middle of [a trip] with obviously someone having it on the team or at least maybe two people having it on the team, and you put it into that environment, you're going to get a spread, especially for us with a team that had so few numbers.
"There's a lot of people out there that have had a large number of guys already have it, so you're not seeing a spread anymore because they had it. We had so few who have had it that it was able to spread throughout the team, where other teams, from my understanding in the league -- we're still on the low number of total positives of people in the league. Our trainers said there's still teams that have a lot more positives than we do now, so when you're looking at that aspect of things, they're not testing that many guys, so that concern of that spread was much greater for us for every road game."