Cards were ahead of game when coronavirus shutdown hit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) -- Scott Satterfield has been looking for positives and ways to stay upbeat for himself, his coaching staff at Louisville and his players as they contend with the coronavirus pandemic that abruptly ended the Cardinals' spring football practice and shut down the school's campus for an undetermined period of time.


One positive became very evident at the outset of the crisis: Satterfield's habit of starting spring practice well ahead of most major college teams.


UofL began its drills on Feb. 24 and had gotten seven practices -- about half the allotted 15 -- in before things came to a screeching halt two weeks ago following spring break.


But the early start to spring practice, a schedule Satterfield used during his last four or five seasons at Appalachian State, could pay dividends when fall practice starts -- whenever that may be.


"This is unfortunate for everybody, obviously, but if you look at it just from a football perspective we've got to find a positive in it," Satterfield said during a media teleconference Tuesday afternoon. "And the positives were we did get six weeks of lifting, running and conditioning when we first got back (in January) and then we were able to get seven practices in. So this semester football-wise was not a total loss. We were able to get a lot of good work in and it's something to build off of.


"To get those seven in, golly, was great for us. So many of the young guys (recruits) who showed up early were able to get some quality work in, as well as guys coming off our big bowl win. We felt like we picked up right where we left off from the bowl game, really hitting on all cylinders.


"The other thing is you have film from those practices and all these guys have their Ipads back home and are able to watch some of the film. That's beneficial. So there are a lot of things. . .we're excited to be able to get those seven in. Now as we move forward, when are we gonna be coming back, that's the big question. We'll have a plan whenever that does happen of what we need to do."


The 100 or so players are all home and doing whatever they can to stay in shape. Returning redshirt junior quarterback Malik Cunningham told the UofL sports Website Gocards.com, that he is, indeed, watching film of his spring practices as his coach suggested and is also working out while home in Montgomery, Ala.


"This really caught me and all of my teammates off guard," Cunningham said. "We were having a really good spring from the offensive side of the ball, and this set us back a little. However, we know this is way bigger than football, and it's a terrible tragedy that is crippling the world. I'm watching film to see what progress I made and where I need to improve, and I'm throwing every day to keep my arm in shape."


Satterfield said some players have sent videos of their workouts to strength and conditioning coach Mike Sirignano, who has provided programs for each of them involving weights and exercises. Their nutrition is also being monitored as much as possible.


Satterfield said he and his assistants are keeping in contact with the current players as well as 2021 recruits, and he has received some good news on that front recently.


Last week UofL got its first two commitments for the class in three-star offensive guard Aaron Gun from New Castle, Pa. and three-star defensive end and Georgia native Victoine Brown.


Under an NCAA shutdown, coaches are not allowed to have recruits visit or have face-to-face contact, but can text and call prospects.


"The one thing we've done is we're in constant communication (with recruits)," Satterfield said. "Sometimes overkill, but that's what have to do right now."


Satterfield said he thinks the NCAA will make some adjustments for fall practice, although he doesn't have any idea what they will be. Some coaches have suggested adding to the 28 days for preseason practice, but Satterfield believes extra time for conditioning is more important than adding actual practice days.


"I think we're gonna have to be able to do some things on the calendar that weren't in the rules before," he said. "Can we have some extra time with these guys to get them back into shape as far as strength levels? That's going to take time. You've got to gradually get back into it. So we're gonna have to tweak some of the rules.


"I think you'll see an uptick in injuries if we try to start practice right away. I'll even sacrifice practice time if I have to in order to get these guys back on track. Our number one goal is to keep players healthy. Whatever that will entail -- weight room, running -- we will take our time. We don't want to rush anything. A lot is gonna be determined by when we can get these guys back.


"When we find out, we'll devise a plan. The staffs that put together a comprehensive plan to gradually get their guys back up to where they were when they left will be the ones that are most successful. Ultimately, the way I'm viewing it, is what can we do that's best for our players?"


Despite postponements and cancellations throughout the sports world -- including the Kentucky Derby and Tokyo Olympics -- and across every other facet of American life, Satterfield remains optimistic that the college football season will kick off as scheduled. Louisville's opener is set for Sept. 3 against North Carolina State in Cardinal Stadium.


"I'm planning for season to go on," he said "It's still a long way away. I think we'll get this virus under control. We're learning every single day. Hopefully, come up with some drugs get into this virus and help people get well and in the meantime work on vaccine. We've all got to stay positive and upbeat and think forward, just for our psyche, if nothing else. All fans that really love sports. . .as country we need it for our pysche and well-being."

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports and college football and basketball for Kentucky Today. He can be contacted at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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