Florida’s Carter dedicates season to virus victims, fighters

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida defensive end Zach Carter plans to play and will dedicate the season to those affected by COVID-19.

Carter missed the opening days of fall camp while he considered skipping the season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Carter has been an outspoken supporter of the #WeAreUnited campaign started by Pac-12 players earlier this month. And his father, who was hospitalized with COVID-19 over the summer, said earlier this week his son “just doesn’t feel safe right now.”

But Carter seemed to put questions about his Florida future to rest Thursday.

“Been in deep thought lately since COVID-19 had my dad at his lowest in July & August,” Carter wrote on Twitter. “Then on August 3rd, my mom’s friend of 29 year died of COVID-19. She was a true Gator fan who came to a lot of my games. Looking forward to ballin out in honor of all COVID-19 fighters and victims. Go Gators!”

Carter, a fourth-year junior from Tampa, finished last season with 31 tackles and 4½ sacks.

Gators coach Dan Mullen said Thursday he hadn’t spoken to Carter recently and wasn’t aware of his intentions to play. Mullen said earlier this week he wouldn’t be surprised if players or assistant coaches opted out of the season because of health concerns.

Florida had three receivers — Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney and Jacob Copeland — also miss the start of camp. Mullen declined to provide any details about their absences.

“I think it’s tough on everybody,” Mullen said. “These are unique times, and like I said, it’s just something else. We have players that deal with all kinds of different things, you know, that have dealt with all kinds of different issues, lots of different family issues, so many different things that are going on right now.

“And everybody handles things differently and everybody’s got to kind of make their own decisions about what’s going on and where they’re at. Our job is to just kind of help guide them and manage them and support them in their decisions.”

The Gators are scheduled to open the season Sept. 26 at Ole Miss.

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