College football coronavirus confidential player survey

Why there's 'cautious optimism' ahead of the 2020 college football season (1:55)

Heather Dinich, Adam Rittenberg and Chris Low break down how the 2020 college football season could proceed amid coronavirus concerns. (1:55)

College football teams are returning to campus for voluntary workouts with the goal of an on-time start to the 2020 season. But with their return has come a handful of positive coronavirus tests, and a new series of questions about managing the virus with a large group of athletes used to being in close proximity to one another.

So, how do the players feel about returning without a vaccine in sight? And what happens if the season gets pushed further into 2021, either because of a delay at the beginning or a midseason interruption? Could players physically handle two seasons in a calendar year? How would that affect preparation for the NFL draft?

We spoke to 73 players -- keeping their names confidential -- from across the FBS throughout the month of May, to get their perspectives on the most pressing issues facing return to play.

Are you comfortable practicing and playing games without a coronavirus vaccine?

Yes: 64
No: 8
Somewhat: 1

What they're saying

  • "I would be perfectly fine practicing and playing games. There's an assumption of risk whenever you play the sport to begin with and I don't think adding the virus to that changes anything for the coaches or players."

  • "Yes. As long as I can still see family, go home and not be on quarantine the whole time."

  • "I would be comfortable as long as there's consistent testing for the players, referees, coaches the day prior to the game or as long as the people participating on the field have been tested and are coronavirus free."

  • "I would be comfortable playing if we can get some kind of professional advising that it's safe and that there's a way we can do this and keep everybody as safe as possible. Getting that type of professional advising and the green light from the people who really know what they're talking about, I think that would mean everything."

Are you comfortable practicing and playing games if your school isn't open to the general student body?

Yes: 62
No: 11

What they're saying

  • "Personally, I'd feel comfortable, but it wouldn't feel right because the amateurism vs. the other students. The NCAA has kind of sat back and let this happen when the whole reason they came into place was to protect student-athletes and when we need them most, they're disappearing so it would be I think a stain on the idea of [student-athletes] if we start practicing and playing and living on campus while regular students were at home because it's not safe for them. It would be a weird environment to be in."

  • "I'd probably be even more comfortable with that being the case, if it's not best for everybody to be back. We have a smaller number, that would be really beneficial."

  • "Yes, as long as players who test positive are removed from playing for a set amount of time and there are no new mutations of the disease making it more dangerous to my age group."

  • "The entire student body does not necessarily need to be present, but there should be a mix of athletes and regular students."

Are you willing to play games in empty stadiums?

Yes: 59
No: 13
Depends: 1

What they're saying

  • "The first time will probably be a little weird, but at the same time we have scrimmages against each other all the time and we're out there playing live and nobody's in the stands and we're out there having fun."

  • "I believe that no fans should be a last resort. It is such a big part of the game and it also brings in a ton of revenue. But if it came down to no football or no fans, then I would rather play the season with no fans."

  • "I'll play games on a practice field if the alternative is no season."

  • "I want to play, but the fans add so much. It would be like going to practice every day."

If the season got delayed or interrupted, would you be willing to play two seasons in one calendar year?

Yes: 37
No: 28
Depends: 8

What they're saying

  • "No, that is not safe for your body with the amount of hits, there would be a massive increase in injuries. Not safe at all."

  • "If that were to happen it would have to be reduced seasons. Both of them."

  • "It hurts my body to think about it, but yes."

  • "Basically, three weeks into the season, nobody is 100% anymore. Lots of people will tear things during the season and put off surgery until the end of the season. Offseason training is the biggest factor in preventing injuries also. It doesn't make any sense to play two seasons in one calendar year. One, you have to rehab from the previous season, and two, you need to prepare for the upcoming season to prevent injuries. It just doesn't seem like a reasonable thing to do."

  • "No. Not two seasons in 2021. That's a little rough. Unless we're getting paid."

  • "There's no way in hell I think a linebacker or lineman could go and play a full 12 games and then a bowl game and then be healthy to play again in another few months. Your roster would be pretty diminished. From a team perspective, I don't think it's possible."

How long do you need to get ready for the season?

Four weeks: 17
Six weeks: 37
Eight weeks: 17
More than eight weeks: 1
Whatever the NCAA says: 1

What they're saying

  • "Six weeks. Two weeks to get our conditioning levels to where they need to be, get our bodies where they need to be, and then the full four weeks of camp."

  • "Four weeks. We're supposed to be staying ready right now, and I believe I'm in game shape."

  • "Four weeks is adequate. However, there must be restrictions on time so that coaches don't overuse time and keep players all day, every day to pick up for lost time over the summer."

  • "I would think that two months, eight weeks, would be the best. We could have five of conditioning and workouts and three of actual camp."

If you're a junior or senior NFL draft prospect, would you be willing to play in the spring?

Yes: 41
No: 25
Depends: 7

What they're saying

  • "My mindset is I'm playing for my guys. This is my chapter right now and when the next one comes it comes, but I'm trying to get the most out of next season no matter how it manifests. Playing in the spring wouldn't be a problem."

  • "If the NFL stays on a regular schedule with the draft and the combine in the spring, I would not feel comfortable playing a spring season."

  • "If I am projected to go [in] rounds [1-3], then I would prefer to not play a season and just prepare for the NFL. On the other hand, if I was a late-round prospect or possible [undrafted free agent], I would enjoy playing another season to showcase myself."

  • "I wouldn't. I feel like it goes along with how people sit out for bowl games, it being that close and there's a lot of risk and money you're putting on the line."