Local high school football teams ease back into summer practice with virus in mind

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Image: WTVC

Slowly, high school football teams in our coverage area of Tennessee are coming back for summer conditioning drills, but with a whole new set of rules.

On Tuesday morning, the Bradley Central Bears held their second conditioning session of the summer, with the first on Memorial Day.

Bradley Central usually starts the season with about 100 players, but the way it is now, only nine players can work out at a time with their position coach present. Practice takes much longer, about 10 to 12 hours according to head coach Damon Floyd. The coaches rotate the players through for about two hours each group which accounts for an entire day.COVID has totally forced coaches to call a timeout and rework the practice playbook.Inside Bradley's weight room, a small group of players weight train. They're staying six feet apart and each player stays in the same rack.

Rising senior Tucker Thompson said social distancing has been the hardest part. "It's definitely different. Don't get to hang out, don't get to be close with my friends," Thompson said.

Outside, players space out five yards each. They stretch, run and jog at a coach's instruction. Coach Floyd said, "As a coach, we have to remind ourselves constantly, 'Hey, Stay away, stay away.' that kind of thing. It is difficult and it's different but we're adapted to it."

Another major difference this summer - there will be no contact. At least, not for now. "Right now, yeah, we're staying away from each other. We're not even using pads where they punch pads, we're going to try to keep equipment to a minimum," Floyd noted.

The weight room is in play, but the locker room and campus itself are off limits. After each player finishes his workout, he has to wipe it down. Rising junior Joel Cabral explained the process as he was finishing up on his weight bench, "Just wipe down everything I touched. Basically, the bar. I'm going to wipe down some of these weights and the bench. "

Trainer Julie Savage comes behind them and sprays down the harnesses and straps players may have worn. Savage said, "We're just a lot more cautious of sanitizing. Kids get sanitizer before and after every workout as they come in and out. "

She and coaches also take the players temperatures every day and look for any of the common COVID symptoms. As far as playing actual games, coach Floyd relayed what the TSSAA told him. "The latest I've heard is that at some point we will have a football season. They (the TSSAA) don't know exactly when that it will be. I would assume that it's probably going to get pushed back at some point."

The TSSAA said Friday questions about the regular season, playoffs and the state tournament should be answered at a later date.

Meanwhile, the Georgia High School Association has sent out guidelines for returning for conditioning on June 8th.