Temple football coach Rod Carey, and likely most others around the country, feel conflicted. With the difficulties brought about by COVID-19, just being able to suit up and play each week seems like a major victory. Of course Carey and his coaching brethren are paid to get the actual victories.

The toll COVID-19 has taken in all walks of life has been immense and the football coaching and playing fraternity has experienced all the potential pitfalls.

So Carey was asked at his weekly press conference on Monday if there is just simply a sense of relief when he is able to take the field for a game, something that nobody takes for granted these days.

“I really don’t know how to quantify that, because I’m hardwired, there isn’t a sense of relief that we played, there is just stuff we have to get better at so that we can be successful,” he said.

Yet in the next sentence he talked about the strain it has been on his staff and team trying to keep everything together.

He then suggested that there may be some relief once the opening kickoff goes off and he knows another game will be played.

“This is unlike anything that I have been through so yeah, is there a sense or relief?” he said.

Temple head coach Rod Carey says dealing with the pandemic has had an effect on everything the team does.
Gail Burton / AP
Temple head coach Rod Carey says dealing with the pandemic has had an effect on everything the team does.

Carey’s team was originally supposed to open its season on Sept. 5, but had four nonconference games canceled and the Navy game was moved from Sept. 26 to Temple’s opener Oct. 10. The Owls (1-2 overall, 1-2 in the American Athletic Conference) will be playing their fourth straight week when they visit Tulane (2-4, 0-4) at noon on Saturday.

“To be perfectly honest with you guys which I always have been, I’m on pins and needles with our test results here…

Rod Carey

In short, there is no easy answer in trying to balance feeling victorious in just being able to play a game due to so many COVID-19 challenges, and actually winning that game.

Carey’s biggest challenge used to be examining the film in practice and trying to coach up his players to do better.

Now?

“To be perfectly honest with you guys which I always have been, I’m on pins and needles with our test results here…” he said.

Coaches like to think they have everything under control, but it doesn’t matter how cautious somebody is, a COVID-19 positive test is possible for anybody in all walks of life. That is always in the back of the mind of players, in a sport where social distancing is impossible.

“There is always that uncertainty whenever you play a team,” Temple all-conference defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh said. “You don’t know how their protocols are going to be.”

And even when the game has been played and even if it results in victory, there is still worry for the players.

“After a game you wonder if you are going to test positive,” Maijeh said. “You go out there and play and control the things you can control.”

In this case coaches and players can only control so much.

“It’s crazy because it is like, you are playing football in a pandemic and each game you get to see another day and you just got to be grateful,” Maijeh said.

Maijeh, Carey and the rest of the team haven’t lost the desire to win, but during this awful pandemic, victories are achieved every week, once that opening kickoff takes place.