Tebow, 3 starters fly separately due to illness


Published: Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 11:48 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 26, 2009 at 11:48 a.m.

LEXINGTON, Ky. All-America quarterback Tim Tebow and three other starters were flown to Lexington separate from the rest of the team due to illness, a source close to the Florida football team confirmed this morning.

Along with Tebow, wide receiver Riley Cooper, cornerback Joe Haden and safety Major Wright flew to Kentucky on a separate plane.

All four players are expected to play in today's game.

Tebow has been battling an upper respiratory issue and does not have the flu, the source said.

The players rejoined the top-ranked Gators at the hotel, a source familiar with Florida's travel plans told The Associated Press.

Florida has been battling illnesses for the last three weeks, and coach Urban Meyer estimated that more than 35 players have been sick during that stretch.

Running back Jeff Demps, defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, linebacker A.J. Jones and tight end Aaron Hernandez all starters were among the players isolated in the last 10 days because of flu-like symptoms.

The AP source said Tebow, Haden and Wright were suffering from congestive issues, but they were not having trouble breathing.

Haden and Wright missed practice Thursday, but Meyer said he expected both to play against the Wildcats. The AP source said the health of all three has improved since arriving in Lexington.

The AP source also said everyone on the team's expected travel roster made the trip, including receivers coach Billy Gonzales. He was sent home early in the week, but he returned and wore gloves and a mask at practice.

Meyer said earlier in the week there was no chance he would rest sick players.

"That'd be one of the major errors in coaching history to go do that, because you'd go lose," he said. "No. Absolutely not. We're going to bring everything and go as hard as we can. That gets you out of the profession, those kind of thoughts. You go as hard as you can.

"The good thing is I've got a mature group. Not a whole lot of cheerleading going on this week. Got to get better and go play."

The Gators beat Tennessee 23-13 last Saturday, a disappointing victory for the heavily favored Gators. Meyer partially blamed the conservative game plan on the illnesses. Volunteers coach Lane Kiffin indicated that Meyer was using the illnesses as an excuse to justify a less-than-desirable performance.

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