With assistant coaches hovering around six players taking part in the first media availability for the Buckeyes in New Orleans, the message was clear: the focus for the team – and those who support them – must remain solely on the upcoming game.
That started with Thursday's practice, the first to take place in the Superdome.
"I don't feel like something I did two years ago is going to bother me too much today," said junior wide receiver DeVier Posey, who is one of six players suspended for part of the 2011 season after selling personal memorabilia following the 2008 season. "I'm just really trying to focus on the Sugar Bowl and focus on playing Arkansas."
The four other juniors suspended for the first five games of the season – starters Terrelle Pryor, Dan Herron, Mike Adams and reserve Solomon Thomas – each took part in the 15 minutes of practice made available to the media, as did Posey.
The entire team was present and accounted for after spending the previous day in transit. A number of players talked about the tiring effects of a day of travel and one player – sophomore running back Jordan Hall – had written on his Twitter page that it took him about 12 hours to get to New Orleans due to flight delays.
After that, simply getting onto the field proved somewhat therapeutic, center Michael Brewster said.
"It's just good to get on the field after a long day of traveling," the junior said. "Some guys got delayed. It took me about eight hours to get here, maybe longer. It was just really good to get out there, stretch your legs out and get things going again."
Posey added that playing in the Superdome required some adjustments.
"I feel like we had a good practice getting used to the lights in the big dome and just running around there seeing how the turf feels," he said. "It's a fast track. It feels pretty good out there."
The last week has been anything but relaxing for the program, however. With the status of the five players as well as redshirt freshman Jordan Whiting – who is suspended for the first game of the season – subject to scrutiny and rumors that head coach Jim Tressel would be stepping down after the game, there was little normalcy to be found within the program.
Senior running back Brandon Saine said he feels the situation has had a positive effect on the team's chemistry.
"I definitely think that we've come together and gotten close," he said. "I feel like we had a close team all year anyways but I think that we've really shown a lot of love for each other and definitely rallied together."
Likewise, Posey said the NCAA violations were likely a bigger deal to the reporters asking questions than the players in question.
"We're really just trying to focus," he said. "It's brought us closer as a team and we're focused on January 4th.
"It's how you respond to some things. Sometimes you respond to adversity and you struggle with it or sometimes you take it on for what it is and try to move forward. I feel like we executed that very well."
Earlier in the day, OSU head coach Jim Tressel said he did not feel that outward pressures would impact his team's play in the final game of the season.
"I think the thing that will have an impact on how we play in the Sugar Bowl will be how we play," he said. "Will we take care of the ball? Will we knock it loose? Will we cover our lanes on kickoffs? Will those things have an effect? I'd sure like to think that they would."
Rather than focusing on trying to send a statement to those who have doubted the program, Brewster said the emphasis remains on facing the Razorbacks.
"Everyone knows the big picture right now is we need to get ready for Arkansas," he said. "Everything we do is we want to send our seniors out on a good note. That's really all our focus is on. Everyone knows this is a family and no matter what happens we love each other.
Asked if he felt the situation could become a rallying cry for the Buckeyes, Brewster summed up the tenor of the team's first set of interviews.
"I'm sure," he said. "Our team can get stronger from everything but practice was great today. That's what I'm most happy about."