|Return to spring football practice is 'a big deal' for Charlotte 49ers|
|15 sessions critical to player development|
|Published Wednesday, March 31, 2021 9:00 pm|
|The Charlotte 49ers open spring football drills on April 1 with weekly testing of players through 15 practice sessions.|
What may feel like a routine part of preparing for the regular season is something head coach Will Healy said the team is not taking for granted after having to forgo spring ball due to COVID-19 last year. Players have been working on strength and conditioning, which the NCAA stipulates may be up to eight hours per week leading up to the official start of spring ball.
Now the 49ers can work with players 20 hours per week through April 29.
Aside from April 1-2, Healy intends to conduct practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while scrimmaging on Saturday. Charlotte did not plan for a spring game due to the pandemic; however, with easing restrictions in North Carolina, they may have something before April ends. The start of practice culminates with their Pro Day, in which 12 players will participate.
Players will be tested weekly for the virus. They were tested three times per week during the regular season.
“These guys have been through a lot these last 14 months,” Healy said. “Being able to get back out and go through 15 spring practices is a big deal for us from a developmental perspective.”
North Carolina residents in groups 1-4 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and all adults will be eligible on April 7. Healy said his job as head coach is to educate players on vaccination, not mandate it. The program has set up Zoom calls with doctors to discuss the vaccine, answer questions and dispel myths associated with it.
Half of Charlotte’s 2020 season was canceled or postponed due to the pandemic. They finished the season 2-4, playing two games at home. Healy said he is concerned about the mental toll the experience has on players due to fear of infection, frustration of quarantine and contact tracing and having games canceled.
Things are looking up for the 49ers with 16 of their 24-player signing class enrolled for the spring semester. The team had a chance to bond over hitting golf balls at Bank of America Stadium, which Healy described as “really cool.” Those were the types of moments he missed the most last season —having a chance to build team chemistry by just hanging out together.
Now the focus turns toward working through three processes before Charlotte’s season opener against Duke at home on Sept. 4: spring practice, summer workouts and fall camp.
“We have to work like the game is tomorrow,” Healy said. “We are not anywhere close to being ready to circle that.”
Charlotte’s 2021 schedule (home games in bold):
Sat. 4 Duke
Sat. 11 Gardner-Webb
Sat. 18 at Georgia State
Sat. 25 Middle Tennessee
Sat. 2 at Illinois
Sat. 9 at Florida International.
Sat. 23 Florida Atlantic
Sat. 30 at Western Kentucky
Sat. 6 Rice
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