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Buckeye Brief: NFL protests and Big Ten locker rooms from Urban Meyer in Big Ten coaches teleconference

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer addresses the Buckeyes prior to the first practice of fall camp on July 27. Credit: Colin Hass-Hill | Sports Editor

Coming off its 54-21 victory over UNLV, the No. 11 Ohio State football team (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) will be preparing this week for its matchup against Rutgers, the first Big Ten opponent the team has faced since the season opener against Indiana.

Speaking on Tuesday’s weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference, head coach Urban Meyer was asked questions about the protests that were prominent in the NFL this week, and how he would react if one of his own players asked to protest racial injustice and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.

After he avoided providing a direct answer the day prior at a press conference regarding how the team has dealt with the protests, Meyer gave a similar answer in the teleconference, citing a culture of respect to deal with the varying opinions players and coaches might have on the hotly debated topic, while avoiding sharing his own opinion on the matter.

“A culture of team, a culture of respect and a culture of focus. And so, I was unaware that anything was going on until yesterday,” Meyer said Tuesday. “I’ll talk to some players and we’ll do what we normally do after a conversation and I’ll let people have their opinions and never cross the ‘r-word’, which is respect.”

Meyer later said that in a hypothetical situation in which a player might ask him about joining the protest over racial injustice and take a knee during the national anthem, any conversation on the matter would be kept private and not shared with the public.

“That’s between me and the player and to be honest, I don’t know,” Meyer said. “And if I did, I probably wouldn’t share it with you since to me, that’s sanctuary-type meetings you have with your players that you have trust in. So it’s no different than if you said what if my son or daughter came home and asked me what would I do, that’s between me and them.”

Here are more updates from Meyer during the Week 5 teleconference.

On Big Ten locker rooms: “These players do a lot for us and do a lot for our conference. They should be treated right and that’s very clean environment, obviously the proper heat, proper air conditioner, air conditioning and a sanitary environment. And I would imagine that from this point forward that their people will look at that very closely.”

On assessing the team: “Pass defense continues to be the No. 1 on the hit parade as far as we have three pass interference penalties last week. Other than that, we played well, but that’s No. 1 where we need to improve. And then No. 2 is consistency on offense, and especially you know when you start getting into conference play and facing the better defenses, you have to play much better.”

On Tracy Sprinkle: “He’s one of our top players as far as leadership, as far as respect amongst our players, so they know how hard he works, what a character guy he is and how much he loves his teammates. He actually talked some today a little bit. He’s getting back to that group he was before he got hurt. So, his last two games have been much better and we anticipate him to continue to improve as he has more confidence on that leg.”

On freshmen who impressed against UNLV: “I can see Pete Werner and Baron Browning. They’ve really made strides … plus they’re very talented guys. Jeffrey Okudah is a guy who has taken a giant step and earned some playing time. Trevon Grimes had a couple really good weeks of practice. He’s not in a position to be in the rotation yet, but he’s working towards that.”

On Demario McCall: “We’re pressing along and trying to get him ready to go, but when you watched him play, that wasn’t the Demario McCall you’ve seen in the open field. So it is a real injury. It is something that’s getting better and it’s a guy that just needs confidence to become the dynamic player he could be.”

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