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Notre Dame Football

Brian Kelly Relying on Routine and Notre Dame's Veteran Presence

October 5, 2020

Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly knew the 2020 season would be full of twists and turns, but the Fighting Irish are entering new waters after a two-week layoff. 

Kelly is in a unique spot as he will have to continue the battle with COVID-19, but also keep the health of those returning from quarantine and isolation safe from overload. 

"They go through a mandatory isolation or quarantine," said Kelly. "After that time, they're evaluated with a cardio EKG, medical workout, so all of that is out of my hands. They're handled by our medical staff. 

"When they are fit and they are cleared, they give them back to me. Then it's my job to reintegrate them back into football as we see it relative to reps and the football kind of day-to-day routine. 

Now, each situation varies, so it's hard to know where each player is in their conditioning, but Kelly has started to see trends. 

"For those that are in quarantine after seven days, if they do not turn positive, they can be working out in a modified quarantine," Kelly explained. "I've found that those players that have been caught up in contact tracing that are in a modified quarantine certainly come back faster because they've used that time for cardiovascular conditioning. That hasn't been an issue at all.

"We now have a number of guys that are back this week or have been coming back over the last five or six days that have been in isolation. We've had to bring them along a lot slower. How is that going to affect us on Saturday? I would say primarily if a player was normally playing 50 plays, they may be in our mind playing probably half of that. That's kind of how we have processed that out during this time." 

The Irish returned to practice late last week and scrimmaged on Sunday, but Kelly knows his team will need to lock in even more than usual to be ready to compete on Saturday. 

"I think we can go out and play well, but it's going to require everybody to a man to really be purposeful in their week this week," stated Kelly. "We've played a couple games, we've had a lot of practices leading into this.

"Two weeks off definitely is something that you can't just think we're going to roll it back out there and all things are good. It's not. It's going to require really leaning on an attention to detail that maybe they've never had before."

While it's not an ideal situation, Kelly is confident in the leadership from his veterans and starts with quarterback Ian Book. 

The two-time captain might draw criticism for his game, but Kelly isn't worried about it as Book is 22-3 as the starting quarterback at Notre Dame. 

"I don't know that I'm looking at it through a microscope in terms of analyzing everything he's done," Kelly said. "He's a winner. He wins football games. Maybe it doesn't necessarily always pass the test for those that try to evaluate Ian Book in terms of every little category, but he wins. He is a guy that prepares the football team so well. He has prepared himself. He brings a sense of calm to the unit that they believe they're going to win no matter what the circumstances are and that's been the case every time Ian Book has run out on the field as the starting quarterback at Notre Dame, except for maybe one game we've played and that was the Michigan game." 

Book's calm confidence is something Kelly will lean on this week as it's bound to be anything but ordinary. 

"He just brings that sense to the unit," said Kelly. "He brings an incredible confidence to the other players on offense. I don't know that I spend that much time evaluating all these little things about where he's grown as much as he's helped the other 10 players around him believe that they're going to win. That's a pretty good thing for a quarterback to have." 

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