Woodfin drawing on his experience with NFL lockout at Missouri

COLUMBIA — While the sporting world waits with bated breath to see if Major League Baseball can avoid a strike or lockout as the league attempts to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, one of the last major lockouts taught a member of the Missouri football staff how to prepare for a return from COVID-19.

Zac Woodfin, the Tigers’ new director of athletic performance, was hired as an assistant strength coach with the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers four days after the NFL and NFL Players Association entered into federal mediation after the league’s owners voted in 2008 to end the collective bargaining agreement following the 2010 season.

What followed was the longest lockout in league history, ending Aug. 4 when the NFLPA ratified a new CBA. Players were allowed to work out individually to stay prepared for the season but could not use team facilities.

“We did see that year a lot of lower leg injuries, there was a lot of Achilles injuries that year, early in training camp, a lot of hamstring injuries,” Woodfin said in a video call with reporters Wednesday. “Planning for that and how we’re preparing our guys when they come back, will be key, and how we try to start practice and slowly start to implement football when the time is right, will be key. But I was thankful to have that to look back on, learn from and try not to make the mistakes that some NFL teams made back in 2011, and the mistake was simply starting too fast.”

As a result, it will be a slow resumption for Missouri, no matter how much the players missed football and the daily grind of workouts.

Woodfin and his training staff got about seven weeks to work with the program through the first three spring football practices before coronavirus shut things down in early March, and said they got off to a fast start in the weight room.

The Tigers resumed voluntary workouts for football and men’s and women’s basketball Monday, with the football team working in static groups of 20-25. The training staff used the time away from organized activities to plan, plan and plan some more for the different possibilities of resuming weight room work. Exercise science is, after all, a science.

Woodfin said players entering the training facility fill in a health questionnaire and have their temperature taken immediately to screen for potential symptoms. Players exhibiting high temperatures or other potential symptoms have to return home.

Now that it’s happened, Woodfin said he is optimistic the players will have enough time to prepare their bodies for the football season starting in September to compete and be healthy.

“Yeah, I am optimistic, I’m a very optimistic person, and I do believe two months is enough time to have our team ready to win,” Woodfin said. “We need to be very strategic in what we do and how we do it. If that’s the case, we need to make sure we follow the plan to a ‘T’ and we have great communication with our medical staff, our coaches, our athletic performance. I’ve got no doubt that we’ll have the time to be ready to go.”

The University of Missouri announced Wednesday afternoon in a letter from UM System president and interim chancellor Mun Choi in-person classes would begin Aug. 24.

“We will continue to monitor the pandemic situation closely and be ready to make any adjustments, which could include moving to remote instruction or other models for delivering instruction should that become necessary,” Choi said in part of his letter posted online by MU.

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