Football players jumping and cheering on sideline at practice

Photo courtesy of Nevada Athletics. Defensive players cheer on the sideline at practice.

Restrictions for COVID-19 are still in effect, and Nevada Wolf Pack football continues to try their best to follow guidelines. 

With a roster of 112 athletes, being in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions can be difficult. Last season, games did not have any fans in the stands, and fewer games were played—this season, however, there will be fans and a full schedule. 

Head coach Jay Norvell said he is aware of the severity of COVID-19, even though some restrictions have been lifted.

“We are still not out of the pandemic,” Norvell said. “The virus is very much a part of our world and we have to take it seriously. We are wearing masks inside during meetings. We are trying to stay social distanced. It’s not affecting us as much outdoors. We are still very mindful of it.”

Norvell heard about the Dallas Cowboys having players sit out due to COVID-19 before the season had even started. This is the reality that Norvell wants to avoid.

“I was listening to the Dallas Cowboys,” Norvell said. “They have nine players that can’t play in the game this week. It’s still very much a problem. We have to take it serious and do all we can to protect each other and everyone else from the virus.”

Last season, social distancing was a concern. Restrictions have lifted this season, and COVID has not limited the team bonding experience for senior defensive back JoJuan Claiborne. 

“Even with the COVID restrictions, we are still around each other all the time,” Claiborne said. “These are my brothers.”

Traveling to Stanford University for practices was one experience that not only gave the team the ability to practice, but also the opportunity to bond during the rides there and back.

“Definitely with the traveling away to Stanford we were with each other 24/7,” Claiborne said. “You couldn’t help but build a bond with these guys. And this is honestly the closest this team has ever been in a long time.”

Claiborne knows what a regular football season without COVID feels like. During his past years at Reno, he has been able to bond with the team outside of practice more than these past two seasons. Less interaction outside of practice has not diminished the bond of the team though. 

“I’ve been here for three and a half years now, and this is the closest we’ve ever been,” Claiborne said. “I think that plays a huge part in how we’re playing with each other and the energy we just give off as a team.”

Last season, the football stadiums used fake crowd noises on loudspeakers. Now, the Wolf Pack will get to show off their energy at the first home game where there will be fans back in attendance.

“I think the pumped-in crowd noise was definitely loud,” Claiborne said. “We couldn’t really hear. It’s kind of going into the same thing. There’s going to be real people this time, so maybe the focus is players might need to be locked in a little bit more. For the most part, I feel like there’s not really much adjustments.”

The next game will be on Oct. 2 at 12:30 p.m. at Boise State.

Kelsey Middleton can be reached at kelseymiddleton@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @kelsmiddleunr