When Ole Miss released this year's football schedule, one flaw was readily apparent. The team's bye week, which is usually a great time for players to rest and recover from nagging injuries, came in only the second week of the season.
That means the Rebels will have to play 11 straight weeks from Sept. 19 to Nov. 28. And while it's still not an ideal situation, a recent flu outbreak has coach Houston Nutt more pleased about the early bye week.
"It's a spreading deal," Nutt said. "So hopefully we get this thing done this week. Good timing really."
The outbreak started over the weekend and affected multiple players during Sunday's season-opening 45-14 victory over Memphis at The Liberty Bowl, including quarterback Jevan Snead, safety Johnny Brown and receiver Jacarious Lucas. Symptoms included fever and vomiting.
Nutt said more than a dozen players are now experiencing symptoms and he expects several to miss practice over the next couple days. So far, the coach said there's no evidence any players have contracted swine flu, and UM trainer Tim Mullins said the training staff was treating the sickness aggressively.
"We give them Advil, Tamilflu and plenty of fluids," Mullins said. "Then we just try to isolate them the best we can. These are young, healthy kids, and we're just keeping a close eye on them."
"I'm just worried about how this thing spreads, because it spreads pretty fast," Nutt said. "The players are so close - in the same room, the same locker room."
Besides the flu outbreak, Ole Miss emerged from Sunday's game in fairly good health. The only serious injury was to defensive end Jason Jones, who could have an ACL tear in his knee which would knock him out for the season. Results from tests are expected this morning.
Jones, a redshirt freshman, is on the third-string defense, but is an important part of the Rebels' special teams.
Defensive end Greg Hardy and defensive tackle Ted Laurent both suffered sprained ankles in Sunday's game and might miss practice time, but neither is expected to miss any games.
Hardy hurt his ankle in the first quarter against Memphis, but returned to the field later in the game and recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter. Nutt praised the senior, saying Hardy's return showed how much tougher the 6-foot-5, 270-pounder had become in the off-season.
"That's just football," Hardy said. "... I'm just trying to give to my teammates and go out there (as an example) for the younger guys."
The bye week also gives the Rebels nearly two weeks to correct mistakes from a sometimes sloppy opening game. Snead wasn't particularly sharp with his throws, completing 12 of 22 passes for 175 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Nutt said the entire offense was to blame for the passing problems.
"It was combination of everybody," Nutt said. "The pocket collapses so there's not a full focus on the downfield read. The routes weren't exactly where they were supposed to be. So you've got a problem compounded into another compounded into another one.
"It's all of us. When we have 11 guys doing their job it's amazing how quickly we can score. We can be a very explosive team."