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Eagles Back in Town: Coach Hafley on the Transition Back to Football

BC Football Spring Drills Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Boston College football players and staff returned to campus on Monday, and Jeff Hafley is back in his office. While it’s not as dressed up as his home office just yet, he’s excited to be surrounded by his players and staff and has found a newfound appreciation for getting work done at home and spending time with family.

I use the word surrounded very loosely. It’s all about health and safety. Players are returning from many different areas, so of the many protocols in place, the first is for each player to quarantine for at least eight days, and then a robust testing process afterwards. Before coming back, team meetings were had with parents to make sure everyone was comfortable and all questions were answered. And they haven’t quite given up on Zoom just yet. The team is still utilizing video conferencing for team meetings, and just today had alumnus Mark Herzlich on to speak. Staff meetings have moved from the smaller staff room to a bigger conference room with staff wearing masks and following social distancing guidelines. For Hafley, it’s really quite simple. First and foremost, it will always be the health and safety of his players, staff, and their families, a message Hafley has emphasized on each of his calls with media.

Hafley is very grateful for the school’s support and the medical staff through all of this, and glad they didn’t rush into anything. Now, they have a detailed plan of attack and are able to be proactive moving forward. Despite the lost time early on, coming back now actually makes up for a lot of lost time. That’s not to say they can pick things up at full speed, but having much more time than a typical training camp gives much more wiggle room in case of emergency. He echoed a message from a previous conference, explaining that each month of the season will look different with how much players are able to absorb and get reps in.

Gauging football readiness is going to be a challenge, but Coach Hafley was pleasantly surprised with how the guys looked when they returned to campus. Considering all that transpired, it’s important not to rush into things and make physical mistakes leading to injuries. Before any football is played, the team will take about two weeks just to acclimate, but it could easily extend. “If it means pushing back football we’ll do it,” he said. “But we need to be able to run first.” We all know fundamentals are near and dear to Hafley’s heart, and the hearts of Eagle fans everywhere, and fitness makes it all happen. He fully trusts Coach Matusz in doing this right, establishing a culture and setting the right mindset. No matter what, you won’t be hearing any excuses. “Every team is going through it, so let’s not waste this opportunity.”

Talking about whether college football will even happen, he’s hopeful and thinks there is a legitimate chance we’ll have college football. Given how uncertain things were when this all started, he can’t be anything but positive given where they are today. Hafley has talked with other coaches plenty through the quarantine, bouncing ideas on what works and what doesn’t as players return to action. When asked about how other major schools who opened up have reported dozens of cases, Hafley was not shocked and understands it’s to be expected across college campuses. “We’re doing everything to minimize risks,” he explained, “and while we could have kids who get it, we just have to deal with it and do the best we can.” There’s are a lot of differing theories about keeping specific positions isolated or making sure that an entire position group isn’t knocked out for an extended time period. From an NFL standpoint, so far it’s resulted in extended practice squads. For the BC staff, they are taking some precautions and still thinking about different options, but nothing extreme just yet when the team does begin to break into smaller groups.

Beyond football and the coronavirus, there is of course the ongoing conversation around racial justice. The staff and players have continued to have their own conversations, and have looked for ways to make meaningful change. Coach Hafley said he’s been happy to have a very diverse staff, who have been able to help educate the team and himself and other coaches, helping each other grow. Whether that’s educating, or taking action for positive change, the team is trying to make a difference. Hafley wants to be supportive of players moving forward. The team has already put together some initiatives. Players asked to donate money to a group, and they have been in touch with Boston Police. They plan on adopting a high school or community center with underprivileged kids in order to actually change lives. They want to take meaningful action, and the players and staff are behind this cause.