- Jeff Barlis, College Football
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The specter of last season's plague of injuries still looms over the Florida football program.
The news spread like wildfire through the stands and on social media, reminding everyone of the Gators' protracted run of bad luck that started about a year ago. When the 2013 schedule was finished, and Florida's seven-game losing streak culminated in a 4-8 record, an astounding 15 players (10 of them starters) had suffered season-ending injuries.
Before Hargreaves' injury, which head coach Will Muschamp later announced was just a bone bruise, the Gators had been basking in the glow of good health.
Players and coaches were quick to recall how bad the injury situation was in camp a year ago when Florida was without starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, starting running back Matt Jones and starting guard Jon Halapio before its first practice.
Having just one player unavailable this year (true freshman offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher is out after back surgery) offers an extremely sharp contrast. Muschamp called it "drastically different," and players said they were grateful for each healthy day.
"It feels good after every practice that everybody made it through with no injuries," sophomore running back Kelvin Taylor said on Wednesday. "That's the great part.
"This year we've just got to practice smart, practice fast and take care of our players. We'll be OK. We'll be fine."
The mood took a sudden turn when Hargreaves was helped off the field on Thursday night, and the rest of the practice was far more subdued on the field and in the stands.
Players crowded around Hargreaves in the medical tent, showing concern and looking for a prognosis before the All-SEC performer was carted off the field.
"A lot of people were definitely surprised," sophomore linebacker Jarrad Davis said on Friday. "I was surprised myself. I really didn't know what was going on.
"Coach Muschamp addressed the team at the end of practice and I was kind of shocked to hear that somebody actually got hurt. And then just to hear that it was Vernon kind of sent a shock through everybody because of just what kind of impact he has for our team. It threw a lot of us off."
Ironically, it was a scuffle in practice that knocked Hargreaves out of action. Ironic, because injuries were the biggest factor in Florida's 4-8 record last season, and the team that had been channeling so much of its anger and frustration from 2013 into some very intense practices.
"I feel like fights are definitely a part of it," Davis said. "As football players, we're all trying to be out there and be aggressive and show how dominant we are as a player.
"... But now that Coach Muschamp has addressed it, we've all got that in the back of our head. We've got to take care of our team, got to take care of each other, because we're all we got right now."
Tussles in practice are nothing new, but neither is the injury bug that bit Florida so hard last year. The sight of Hargreaves limping brought back all of the pain and fear.
The drama ended a couple of hours later when Muschamp announced the star cornerback was day-to-day. A shaken fan base heaved a sigh of relief, hoping Thursday night's episode was a sign that the Gators' luck might be changing.
20hGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough