By Alex Maminakis

The Journal

As hundreds of millions of people across the country and around the world adjust their everyday lives in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Clemson football team is no different.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney looks on during the Tigers’ opening day of spring practice on Feb. 26 in Clemson. (Bart Boatwright | For The Journal)

Instead of enjoying what were scheduled to be the final weeks of spring practice, the Clemson players and coaches are all at home, staying connected daily as they try to do as much as they can to stay working.

Head coach Dabo Swinney taped a 42-minute video message on Wednesday — available for all online — to provide updates on the current operations of the Clemson football program, discussing a wide variety of topics, and said he and the team are adjusting well to their new circumstances, adding that the health and well-being of everyone in the program is of the utmost importance.

“I’m great, and so far our entire team is doing very well. Obviously, these are very unique times that we’re all dealing with right now,” Swinney said. “Super proud of our university and our leadership — I think that Clemson has done a great job in establishing protocols that needed to be put in place to keep us all safe, to keep our community safe.

“And we’re just trying to keep normalcy, but the biggest thing, the first thing, was to make sure that everyone was OK from a health and wellness safety standpoint. So we’re in a good spot right now.”

Swinney said a few players traveled to southern Florida over Clemson’s spring break last week, where large crowds were gathered despite the pandemic, but that they haven’t shown any signs of illness since returning home.

Like many Americans, Swinney and the Tigers are now forced to work from home. The Clemson coaches had a virtual staff meeting Wednesday morning, and Swinney said the important thing between the coaches and players is to remain in regular contact so that they can continue working, in some regard, even though they can’t be together on the field or, as Swinney explained, have straightforward football meetings with players.

“Right now, (the ACC) isn’t allowing us to do football meetings (with players), but we can still send them football stuff. Hopefully we’re going to get some clarification on that soon so that we can still have daily afternoon meetings from a football standpoint here coming soon,” he said. “But right now, we’re just having to push all the football stuff to them on a non-required basis, but hopefully that’s going to change, because I know some conferences are allowing their coaches to do that.”

In the meantime, players are staying in touch with the coaches and academic support staff as they focus on finishing the semester strong, and even strength coach Joey Batson, who Swinney said has gotten creative with ways to send each player a workout routine at home.

“If they have access to weights, then we kind of have a plan of the day. And if they don’t have access to weights — and most of them do, but very few don’t — but having an alternative plan so that they can get their workouts done,” Swinney said. “And our strength coaches have done a great job of videoing and using the technology to demonstrate what that alternative plan may be, whether it’s filling up a bucket full of dirt or sand or whatever, to get your core workout done for the day, so it’s been really good. Guys have kind of had some fun with that.”

The Tigers were fortunate to get nine productive spring practices in before having to shut down due to the virus, as many teams had only just begun or hadn’t yet started their spring football schedules.

For now, though, there’s no telling when sports as a whole, and when general life will resume as normal, and Swinney said it’s only natural to be concerned about the impact the pandemic may have on the 2020 season.

“I think everybody has concern, because we’re dealing with something that — I’m not an expert on any of this stuff, that’s for sure,” he said. “I think safety is first and foremost, and all you can do is let all the powers at be make the decisions, and you go with it. But I’m very hopeful that we’ll be back at it. I think the good Lord is good all the time, and this is a unique time in our lives.”

While Swinney did talk plenty about football in his video message, he also addressed the importance of the current situation in the country and around the world, and said he’s keeping everyone in his thoughts who has been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

“As far as football goes, I’m very hopeful that we will be back at it and rolling, but who knows?” he said. “There’s certainly concern. But instead of being concerned, I’m just being faithful and just trying to keep my eyes on the good Lord and know that something great’s going to come from all this. And also just keeping all those in my thoughts and prayers that are really struggling. This is a tough time, and I’m just hopeful that it’ll be over sooner than later and that we can step up and help and make a difference for a lot of these people who have been very, very negatively impacted by all this.”

In his final message to viewers in Wednesday’s video, Swinney said that when lives do begin to return back to normal, he hopes people will have a greater appreciation for things they now miss, including sports, but also for people like healthcare workers who are working tirelessly amid the crisis.

“It’s amazing what’s going on right now in our country, and all these great people that are serving so many,” he said. “I’m certainly not an expert on what’ s going on, I wouldn’t even try to be, but I definitely think that we can definitely learn from the experts and the protocols that people have put forth out there to try to help us overcome this challenge.

“God bless all of you, and hope to see everyone real soon, and I’m hopeful that we’ll all be back in the Valley celebrating this September on another great game day. But until then, stay safe, follow the protocols that have been put forth by a lot of smart people out there, and let’s do our part. God bless, and go Tigers.”

alex@upstatetoday.com | (864) 882-2386

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