Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with the media on Friday afternoon through an online “Zoom” meeting. It was the first time Pruitt spoke with the media since all athletic events associated with the University of Tennessee came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
During the meeting with various major news outlets in the Knoxville area, Pruitt stated that football was not his main priority at the moment. He went on to clarify that the wellbeing and safety of his student-athletes were the main things he was focusing on during the pandemic. “The first priority for us is their health and wellness — and not only for them but for their family,” said the third-year head coach. “We’ve been able to do a little bit of football and I think that’s probably more than I thought. From a mental standpoint, it’s probably best for these guys to get a little bit of normalcy about them and a chance to communicate about something they love.”
Pruitt went on to solidify his prior statements by voicing why he believes it is so important to take COVID-19 seriously. “These are unprecedented times and it’s affecting everyone in the entire country, and it’s unfortunate right now. But I do think that we need to think about our countrymen that this is affecting,” said the former Alabama defensive coordinator. “Whether it’s people that this virus is affecting directly, or our medical staff, and there are even some folks out there without a job. So it’s tough times and it’s the time that we’ve all got to come together and to help solve this crisis.”
When one media member pressed even further, attempting to get Pruitt to reveal his expectation for football’s return, he responded the same way he did to the prior questions. “There’s bigger issues out there right now that are being addressed obviously — daily — with our government and other people associated with the medical field,” said Pruitt firmly. “Whenever that time comes, we’ll be ready at Tennessee.”
The main topic of the meeting then turned to Tennessee’s newly vacant strength and conditioning coach opening, following the unexpected departure of Craig Fitzgerald to the New York Giants. “There’ll be a time soon that we’ll make a move at that position,” said Pruitt. “We’re just kind of going through and talking to some folks right now and seeing what the best way we can make that program better moving forward that also fits the vision of what we want the program to be.”
Pruitt then turned to address Fitzgerald’s actual departure, offering his well wishes to the former strength and conditioning coach. “If you embrace the job that you have and do a good job at it, opportunities present themselves. An opportunity for Craig and his family to get a little closer to home was something that he wanted to take advantage of.”