Virginia Football announced on June 26th that the team could return to grounds for voluntary workouts this past Sunday on July 5th. Virginia Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall asked players to return whenever they feel safe. Players who choose to stay home at this time will remain on scholarship with no penalty. Many new and returning players chose to opt-in to this workout period, as they have been eager to start preparing for their opening game against Georgia on Sept 7th.
Senior Safety Joey Blount describes his reason for returning saying “It’s my last season; I missed my friends and teammates and just wanted to be back”. Despite uncertainty and COVID-19 regulations that are constantly changing in Virginia, Blount remains focused on staying in shape and working hard toward his goals as a rising Senior on the team. “I’m just going to prepare like we are playing a full season” said Blount
When the team first arrived this week, they were required to wear masks and were greeted with COVID-19 tests administered by the UVA Health System. During the week, they were introduced to additional social distancing regulations that enforced smaller training groups, less huddles and team discussions, and decreased access to facilities. Players and coaches quickly realized that this summer would look incredibly different from years past. “The new structure of summer workouts has definitely been something we had to adjust to. It’s not the same as far as how big the groups usually are and how much closer you get with your teammates because we are the only ones here.” said Junior Linebacker Noah Taylor. The mentality of coming in each day and getting the work done safely is one that the team shares, but it leaves players feeling isolated, especially on a team that considers each member family. “Everything and everyone is a lot more divided which isn’t the best but it is the best if we want a season for the fall” Taylor said.
For many schools across the country, the return of football workouts this summer has not gone as planned. Clemson welcomed back their team on June 8th, only to isolate 23 players who tested positive upon arrival. Ohio State took a similar approach to Virginia’s, offering voluntary workouts. They have since paused all activity after receiving the teams most recent COVID-19 test results. Just this week, UNC’s team also halted workouts due to a high number of cases. Of 110 players tested at Virginia, two tested positive. The team released the results Friday morning, but has yet to announce their plan in the event that the number of cases increases.
With one week of training down as the team prepares for the 2020 football season, Virginia’s athletic department remains concerned about player’s exposure to the virus and is developing contingency plans in order to run an equally successful and healthy program this fall.
For those who chose not to return just yet, mandatory workouts will begin on Wednesday, July 15th and will lead up to the team’s Fall training camp, which is set to begin on Sunday, August 9th. Now that the schedule is set, players, coaches and staff will continue to work hard and at a safe distance to ensure everything goes as planned leading up to their season opener in Georgia.