Student football players were back on the gridiron this week after six months of at-home workouts.

“It feels good. I’ve been waiting for it all summer long,” said sophomore Tyler Walden, 15. “I’ve missed my teammates.”

Friday’s football workout wasn’t just business as usual, however. With COVID-19 still a health risk, athletes were required to have their temperatures checked before walking onto the practice field and be screened for coronavirus symptoms. They also had to wear face masks and stay 6-feet apart throughout practice.

“It feels good to be out here, but it’s different,” sophomore Mark Schlesinger, 15, said. “Hopefully we’ll get back to normal.”

Tyler agreed, saying it was odd not being able to high five or touch his teammates.

“It feels like we’re so spread out, I can’t make normal football contact with them,” he said.

In phase one of the school district’s plan to resume sports practices, players keep their distance. The number of players and coaches on the field is limited — for football, only 21 people total are allowed.

There are no common balls that are passed from player to player. Mostly, players do individual drills and conditioning, said football Head Coach Steve Burdeau.

“There’s no equipment as far as balls or shields or anything like that,” Burdeau said. “It’s all agility. Some of the guys haven’t done much since March and some of them have done a whole lot since March.”

Next week, the district will ease some restrictions, allowing students who participated in phase one of workouts to handle some sports equipment, said Nathan Harrington, co-athletic director for Lee County High School.

One thing’s for sure — the students will do whatever it takes to get back in the game. Mark, a running back and safety, said Friday that having to wear a face mask is “annoying” but he’s willing to do that and more to “get football back.”

Tyler, a wide receiver and outside linebacker, expressed similar sentiments, saying the lack of practice over the summer hit him hard.

“It kind of messed me up, because football’s my way to kind of let (it) out,” he said. “I didn’t have no way to let myself out. I haven’t until right now.”