The Pac-12 Conference is about to start its 2020 football season. Nonetheless, the expectations for the season will be COVID-19 centered. Hopes for a safe season has everyone crossing their fingers that this will come to pass.
UCLA football head coach Chip Kelly opened up about his battle with COVID-19 during a Pac-12 Conference media call where coaches discussed the upcoming season. Kelly shared with reporters that he and his wife had contracted COVID-19 and said they were sure to follow up on the necessary precautions while stressing the importance of empathy towards anyone in relation to the virus.
“It’s something that when someone says they’re concerned about the safety of… we fully support where they are coming from because this is something that our generation has never seen and it’s real and we understand it,” Kelly said. “If anybody decided they didn’t feel safe we support them fully for it.”
UCLA as a part of Los Angeles County was forced to close their weight room doors in response to an attempt to contain the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading. Overall, the start of the season has brought Kelly some sense of excitement regardless of the pressure he might be under to produce a winning season.
It’s Year 3 of the Chip Kelly experiment. Hopefully, for the offensive guru, three times is a charm. That’s because the first two years of coaching the Bruins, Kelly’s teams have come up short in the expectations department. In his first season leading the Bruins, Kelly posted a 3-9 overall record. In 2019, Kelly and the Bruins posted a single game improvement in the win column, going 4-8 on the season.
“I think we always need to work on everything from a fundamentals standpoint,” Kelly said. “The beginning of camp doesn’t start until Friday. One of the positives of this team is that most of the players that have played the last two years are still here. We have been a very young team both in ’18 and ’19. And a lot of those players that have been a byproduct of that game experience in ’18 and ’19, will be able to play for us here in 2020. So I’m excited to see those guys.”
During his nearly 30 minutes of speaking time with the media, Kelly talked about a variety of topics, including saying how important it is for today’s student-athlete to be in “football shape,” not just cardiovascular shape.
Kelly has about a month to get his Bruins in tip-top football shape before they travel to Colorado to play the Buffaloes on Nov. 7. The Bruins first home game of the season is scheduled to take place Nov. 13 against Utah. Kelly states that it was the biggest thing they were stressing since they have been back but also paying close attention to the efforts to avoid soft tissue injuries.
“I think what’s tangible is our preparation, in terms of getting ready to play on the 7th, in terms of what our football performance staff does,” Kelly said. In terms of the virus, if someone had a really good prep plan because of the virus, they’re a lot smarter than me because I don’t think anybody has really grasped the virus. It’s a very insidious thing. It can affect anybody. In terms of staying away from soft-tissue injuries and getting our players ready to play on the 7th, I feel really, really confident in what our group can do.”
Kelly shared a snippet of the extent that the conditioning staff did to help get the players back in shape – they went as far as dragging out the equipment that they could throw out onto the field from July to mid-September. As far as being prepared, Kelly said that the Bruins have been back in the weight room for at least the last two weeks now and feel like they are getting back in shape.
When it comes to the health and fitness of the team, Kelly is simply appreciative of the fact that there will be college football in the Pac-12 after all.
“We count our blessings that we’re fortunate enough that we have a schedule and that we keep our players healthy enough that we can play that schedule,” Kelly said.
The possible cancellation or postponement of games is still a strong possibility given the fact some collegiate teams such as Navy, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Memphis, Houston, and BYU has had to call off or delay football contests because of COVID-19.
“We’re really grateful to play one, and if we get an opportunity to play one, we hope no one comes down with it [the coronavirus] and we come back to work that Sunday and see if we can get ready for game two,” Kelly said.
Aside from the everyday challenges that come with the ever-changing dynamic of COVID-19, Kelly said his focus was primarily on Colorado’s new football coach. The Buffaloes new coach is Karl Dorrell, who led the Bruins to five bowl games as the head football coach at UCLA. Dorrell also starred for the Bruins as a playmaking wide receiver during his collegiate career.
Kelly said that Colorado hiring a new football coach and the pressure of playing on the road in the Bruins’ season-opener makes the Buffaloes “their biggest thing,” he said.