When news that University of Wisconsin redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz had tested positive for COVID broke on the heels of his near-perfect debut as the Badgers starter last weekend, a second test was still needed to confirm the diagnosis and Mertz's availability moving forward. Since then, head coach Paul Chryst has refused to comment on Mertz, even as word that his backup, third-string quarterback Chase Wolf, had also tested positive went public.
Chryst, speaking with reporters Monday before practice, would not address Mertz's status or that of any player regarding COVID-19 testing, adding that he is confident that Wisconsin can play this week's game at Nebraska.
As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, UW officials released a statement late Sunday explaining that all players and staffers who participated in the Badgers' 45-7 victory over Illinois were cleared before the game.
“No student-athletes, coaches or support staff members who participated in Friday’s game against Illinois recorded positive antigen tests or reported having any symptoms on Friday prior to the game,” the statement read. “Wisconsin Athletics will not be releasing COVID-related testing information regarding any individual student-athlete, due to medical privacy.”
If both Mertz and Wolf are, indeed, COVID carriers, they must sit out all games and practices for three weeks, per Big Ten Conference guidelines. Wisconsin is already without Jack Coan, who started all 14 games at quarterback last season. Coan suffered a right-foot injury on Oct. 3, underwent surgery on Oct. 7 and is working through rehab.
"The No. 1 concern for the league — and I appreciate this — was: 'How do we best keep everyone as safe as possible regarding the virus?' " Chryst said of the Big Ten's protocols, considered some of the nation's most stringent. "And then: 'How do you manage the impacts of it once someone has it?'
"And admittedly, they told us it was more conservative. And if that helps one person, that’s a good thing for us."