What voluntary workouts will look like as Arkansas players return
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FAYETTEVILLE — Sam Pittman expects nearly his entire roster to be present when voluntary workouts begin Monday.
The first-year Arkansas coach said 5-7 players could be delayed in their arrival, as some are waiting on transcripts and things of that nature, but most of the nearly 100 upperclassmen and early enrollees will be in the Razorbacks’ weight room for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down in mid-March.
Coaches won’t be able to watch them go through drills or even lift weights throughout the month of June and health precautions could keep them from seeing much of the players, but Pittman’s excitement about the players being back on campus was evident in a Zoom teleconference with local media Wednesday afternoon.
“I’d be lying to you if (I said) I knew how much interaction we’re going to get to have with them,” Pittman said. “You still have issues of getting in the building, and there’s one entrance to the building. The bottom line is that entrance is not over here by my door, and we’re not able to go into the weight room.
“So we’re going to have to have a lot of feedback from our strength coaches and all that, but the greatest thing is to know exactly where they are, that they’re here and that they’re able to get in conditioning.”
Although a handful of players from New Orleans had to go through a mandatory quarantine period because they were returning from a “hot spot,” Pittman said the team will be as “healthy as we possibly can be” after a few had minor injuries heading into what would have been spring practice.
In addition to having one entrance and exit to the workout facility, the Razorbacks are also taking other precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus. Temperature checks, smaller workout groups and spread out workout stations will be the new normal.
Considering they’ve been away for so long, Pittman said the players will have workouts five days a week and take things slow. The Razorbacks intend to get a baseline for where they’re at upon returning, but NCAA rules prevent them from testing players.
“We’re going to start slow with our kids,” Pittman said. “The biggest thing you don’t want to do is get them in here and go so rapid that you’re injury prone. … We have plenty of time to get them in shape and we’re going to use an extra day than we normally would.”
The nutrition part of the Jones Center will also be open for players, but it’s unclear if they’ll have access to practice fields for player-led drills and practice sessions.
Pittman said Wednesday that they hope to get an answer on that within the next two or three days, ahead of Monday’s start date.
“Our fields, we are still working through that a little bit with the SEC and with our own availability here,” Pittman said. “Obviously we would like to have the field available for them so they can go throw on their own.”
Although players have been on their own for close to three months, Pittman sounded optimistic that it wouldn’t be much of a setback from a strength and conditioning standpoint.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve heard different coaches speak about this; I trust our kids, and I trust that they’re doing what we ask them to do,” Pittman said. “Obviously, we’ve had constant contact with our guys. There’s reasons behind that.
“One of them is obviously to see what they’re doing, how they’re doing with the list, but we chose to trust, and our big deal is, ‘Why can’t you come back in as good a shape as if you were here,’ and the bottom line is we trust that our kids will be in outstanding shape when they get back.”