The Return: Players excited, anxious to return to workouts amid COVID-19

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Area football fields will be full once again starting Monday, when schools are allowed to begin hosting restricted workouts.

It’s almost here.

After some three months of waiting and wondering, high school student-athletes are set to return to the practice field on Monday for conditioning work.

Due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) , North Murray High School’s D’Ante Tidwell and Murray County High School’s Lincoln Puryear have been relegated to home workouts and hoping for a return to sporting activities prior to their senior years.

While the fate of that senior season for the two is still up in the air at the moment, they’ll be back on the field, which is a start.

"I can’t wait to get back on the field,” Puryear said. “I’ve been missing it greatly. I’m so excited to start Monday and ready to get back in the full swing of things.”

“I’m just thinking about football and trying to get back on the field,” Tidwell said. “I’m just missing it a lot.”

The Georgia High School Association guidelines that local schools must follow in their return to workouts are fairly restrictive in an attempt to create as safe of an atmosphere as possible.

Teams are limited to conditioning and weight room work, with no sport-specific equipment yet allowed, meaning no footballs or shoulder pads quite yet. Using locker rooms for changing or showering is prohibited, social distancing guidelines are in place, hand sanitizer is required and competition between schools is not allowed. Groups must be limited to 20 or less.

Tidwell said he trusts that the guidelines will keep him and his teammates safe.

“At first, I was a little scared of it, I’m not going to lie,” Tidwell said of being exposed to COVID-19. “I’m still nervous about it, but I think we’ll be OK.”

Puryear said he’s not worrying about being exposed to the virus himself during workouts, but of what the overall national reaction to the outbreak might cause later.

“I am nervous there will be another outbreak that will affect the season,” Puryear said.

Despite the long layoff since working out with the team, Tidwell said he feels physically ready to get back out on the field. He’s been completing team-sent workouts at home, in addition to whatever else he can do to get better. His home bench press and squat rack have helped with that.

Tidwell said his North Murray team has been itching for a return to the field after a successful season last year. The Mountaineers went 11-2 in 2019 and recorded the school’s first Elite Eight appearance, but lost 28 seniors to graduation.

“We’ve got some big shoes to fill, so we’re ready to get started,” Tidwell said.

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