By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — Josh Paschal is used to overcoming the odds and the Kentucky junior defensive end is ready to return to battle amid a global pandemic.
Paschal and several of his teammates returned to workouts on Monday in a much different environment than the one players left more than three months ago. Because of COVID-19, restrictions limit workouts to groups of six, and safety measures are taken to ensure player safety at the team’s practice facility.
“From what we know, we feel as if the facility is the safest place we can be right now,” Paschal said during a Zoom meeting with reporters on Tuesday. “Just because of how sanitized it is after we’re done working out and before we’re done working out, things like that. Each of my teammates, we all have full faith in our training staff and our strength staff to make sure we’re in a clean environment and keep our safety first.”
As part of safeguards to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus within the team’s workout facilities, players are required to wear masks at all times. They also are required to fill out a questionnaire with symptoms they may have each morning. In addition, temperature checks are taken prior to workouts, and players aren’t permitted to shake hands to touch each other following repetitions and players have their own weight station that is sanitized following a workout.
The first group of returnees included Paschal, Terry Wilson, DeAndre Square, Kavosiey Smoke, while the second group is scheduled to return to campus next week. Each current returnee was tested for COVD-19 last week.
Paschal admitted wearing the masks is the toughest part of getting used to a new normal during team workouts.
“I don’t think it’s possible to go through a workout without taking it off at least once, pulling it away from your face for a couple of seconds while you’re alone,” Paschal said. “It’s a requirement we have. We have to have the mask on. It’s like a whole other element you have to bring to the workout.”
Paschal made a comeback after battling cancer last season and said he’s 100 percent healthy. Paschal’s safeguards against COVID-19 have been similar to those being taken by those in the general public.
“My oncologist said I don’t have to take any necessary precautions and, as far as the research goes, I’m good,” Paschal said. “I feel like we’re all on the same level as an average human right now.”
While away from campus, Paschal “had the opportunity” to work out with family members in Alabama and stayed in shape in preparation for the upcoming season.
“It was really a time where I could focus on football,” he said.
Like his teammates, Paschal is glad to be back on campus.
“We were all glad,” he said. “Of course, we can’t dap each other up or give each other hugs but we were excited to see each other, excited to get back to work. My group (has only) only six people but we’re excited to see each other. Workouts are fun, music blasting. They’ve been quick, but high energy.”
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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.