Ragin' Cajuns coach Billy Napier details his COVID-19 experience: 'A rough day-and-a-half'
After experiencing an especially challenging night last Thursday, UL coach Billy Napier – who tested positive for COVID-19 – said he still plans to be on the sideline when the No. 24 Ragin’ Cajuns visit UL Monroe on Saturday.
“I’ve made my way through the fray a little bit here,” Napier said during a Sun Belt Conference call Monday morning. “I think I’m on my way out. I kind of see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m doing just fine. I actually feel a hundred percent back to normal today.
“You know, I had really one rough day there – day-and-a-half, or so – where the symptoms were pretty tough,” he added. “But overall I think I’m on the way out of it.”
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A short time later, when meeting with local media via Zoom, Napier added insight into his experience.
“No lie,” he said, “it was a rough day-and-a-half or so there in terms of symptoms.
“But I feel great. I’ve been back to normal here for a couple days, and excited about this week.”
Napier detailed his onset of symptoms.
“I think anybody these days probably has a little bit more awareness of how they feel,” he said, “whether you’ve got a little headache or your nose is stuffed up and whatever the case may be – and that’s as simple as it was.
“As the week going there, just got incrementally worse, and then Thursday night was a tough night. So I do think we all have to be aware of how we’re feeling and the decisions we need to make relative to exposing others.
“It was much like you would experience if you had the flu in terms of the body aches and the temperature and that type of stuff,” he added. “But, you know, quickly, like today – I feel like a million bucks. So I’ve been fortunate. I know there’s many out there that maybe hadn’t been as fortunate.”
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'It’s devastating we couldn’t play'
On Wednesday, the Cajuns’ non-conference game last Saturday against Central Arkansas was canceled due to an outbreak in program – denying them a chance last weekend for a fifth straight win.
UL (7-1, 5-1 Sun Belt) announced then that 33 players either were recovering from the virus, had tested positive and were in quarantine as a result of contact tracing. About half were positive, Cajuns athletic director Bryan Maggard said at the time.
“It’s devastating we couldn’t play, because … at the end of the day each game counts to us,” UL safety Kam Pedescleaux said Monday.
“Yeah, it was frustrating,” starting right tackle Max Mitchell added. “I feel like we were hitting our stride there, and I feel like this past week we could have really … carried on what we did the week before last and hopefully let some the younger guys play.”
UL had been coming off a Sept. 14 win over South Alabama, which – Napier suggested – is when he may have contracted the virus. Others, he believes, may have caught it Halloween weekend, when the Cajuns traveled and won at Texas State.
After two tests early last week had come up negative for himself, Napier learned Saturday that he had tested positive Friday.
Napier said Monday that in addition to himself and the Cajun players who’ve tested positive “a handful of staff” has dealt with the virus.
He did not provide specific numbers.
The Cajuns shut down operations last Tuesday and did not return to work until Saturday.
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Both teams are practicing again
Napier spoke remotely via Zoom while in quarantine, where – separated from family members – he’ll also review practice film, meet with staff and players virtually and handle other duties this week.
“The tough thing here is we don’t get to go to practice,” the married father of three young children said, “and (I’m) not gonna have an opportunity to spend time with the family for Thanksgiving.”
Napier said strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke will handle some of his usual practice-day responsibilities, including talking to the team.
Napier also said his final day of 10-day isolation since the onset of symptoms will be Friday, and that on Saturday he plans to drive to Monroe – separate from the team – and meet his players at Malone Stadium there.
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“I wish I could be with them during the week and all that getting ready,” he said, “but, I mean, it’s just not happening.
“It’s fortunate that it worked out to where I can be there Saturday.”
Napier is confident the Cajuns can play this week against winless ULM (2 p.m., ESPN3), which – partly due to its own COVID issues – has been idle since a Nov. 7 loss at Georgia State.
“We’re well on schedule,” Napier said, “to have enough players to play this game.”
The same evidently goes for ULM (0-8, 0-5).
“We got back going a little bit Saturday and again (Sunday),” Warhawks coach Matt Viator said Monday, “trying to get everybody back in a football rhythm, so to speak, and try to get on a normal week.”
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