Spring? Toast. Summer? Toast. Fall’s a maybe. Can we save August?

Privately, coaches whisper the same gloom to Matt McChesney that Kirk Herbstreit went on radio Friday with and said out loud. Given the coronavirus pandemic, football as we know it — the Broncos, CU, CSU, Mines, preps, everybody — is probably a coin flip to start on time.

“Even if we get football, it’s going to be so terrible,” mused McChesney, the former NFL and Buffs lineman and the owner of Six Zero Strength and Fitness in Centennial. “Think about all the guys who don’t have structure right now, how bad it gets for football players who come back after holding out or after an injury. The first 10 weeks of the season are going to be preseason. They’re going to be (expletive) terrible.”

NFL exhibition games are still four months away, or about as long as the last four weeks have felt. A lot can happen between now and late July on the COVID-19 front. For better or for worse.

But even if football does flip the switch as scheduled, McChesney and others warn, there’s a strong chance that the game will be more dangerous. Especially if players at all levels have gone five months without any kind of physical, or even personal, contact with one another.

If social distancing is the new normal, football will be anything but.

“We might see more injuries,” said Dr. Del Bolin, a professor of sports and family medicine in Blacksburg, Va., and head team physician at Radford University. “It will be very interesting if we see fewer injuries.”

Even for high-schoolers, football’s regimen envelops nearly an entire calendar year now. Winter workouts. Spring practices and lifting through the end of April. Summer camps and preseason conditioning after that.

Experts say the loss of that structure, with colleges and preps in particular, is going to put more of the onus on individual player access, wherever those individuals happen to be stuck, to the right equipment and the right diet. And even more of an onus on each player’s personal motivation.

“The college model, when kids leave high school sports and they go to a university, (that school) is going to try to control everything they can control with that student-athlete,” said Scott Galloway, director of sports medicine with the White Settlement Independent School District just outside of Fort Worth, Texas. “We feed kids on a daily basis after practice (because of) government programs that allow us to provide food. We know this could be the last meal and the only meal that some of these kids eat. And we know meeting that nutritional need is important.”

Varying access to the right foods and procedures will be felt everywhere, Galloway said — and will be felt on the injury front if a long social distancing drought precedes the preseason.

While strength and conditioning staffs at CU, CSU and other colleges are trying to access players remotely via Zoom video chats, the Buffs and Rams are — to some degree — on their own. And so are thousands of prep football players. According to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), 68% of Colorado secondary schools have access to an athletic trainer. NATA reports that while 66% of public and private schools nationally have access to an athletic trainer, only 53% staff one on a full-time basis.

“While some of these kids go home to a three-course meal,” Galloway noted, “others go home to a TV dinner.”

Bolin, who worked from 2002-07 at Virginia Tech and still consults with the team doctors there, said the spring period during which most football players are gearing to “max out,” or set new personal lifting bests, is probably lost.

“If there’s any silver lining here,” Bolin said, “because we’ve been asked to take a break from all sports indefinitely, it’s a chance for people to step back and actually heal. It may be that we bring these folks back to camps in late July or early August and their bodies are rested, healed and they’re ready to go.”

Assuming Dove Valley, Boulder and FoCo are ready, by that time, to even have them back.

“The strength trainers I’ve talked to, they’re preparing their guys, doing everything they can,” Pac-12 Network analyst Yogi Roth said. “The minute the NCAA and the world get back to normal doesn’t mean that you can start hitting in practice. I think every coach is super aware of that. Every conference commissioner is very aware of that.

“What I’m curious about is, let’s just say this thing goes as long as potentially expected now. Do we have an OTA period for college football, so it’s three weeks of retraining the body, not necessarily in pads? And then have a two-week bridge training camp and then have to lose two weeks of the regular season? It wouldn’t shock me if it happens.”

Spring? Toast. Summer? Toast. Fall’s a maybe. Can we save August?

“If you’re a player and you’re stuck in this situation,” McChesney said, “No. 1, you either use this opportunity to eat right, stop smoking, stop drinking every day, whether you’re in the league or college or in high school, and really start doing the right things and take advantage of this time.

“Or you can sit around, (expletive) and complain and be a fat (expletive). And when things start back up again, then you get hurt. I think the possibility of having awful football next year is so high.”

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