The Louisville football team had a meeting, got suited up and practiced for two hours... all before 8 a.m. Thursday morning. It was the first practice of the 2011 season, and, according to the players, the excitement was palpable.
"It was good. It was fun to get back out here with all of the coaches, and see all of the guys flying around," junior quarterback Will Stein said. "Everybody is healthy now, so we have a full squad. It was fun."
More than a dozen key players were injured or coming back from off-season surgery in the spring and couldn't participate in spring drills. Those players are back now, including senior defensive leader Greg Scruggs.
"It was great to be back out here," Scruggs said. "I mean, I haven't had a full practice in a long time - over a year, right?"
Scruggs wasn't the only one who made it back to the practice field for the first time Thursday. Linemen Mario Benavides and Kamran Joyer were back, as were defensive linemen Will Savoy and BJ Butler. Just as important, receivers Andrell Smith, Michaelee Harris and Stephon Ball were back healthy again.
"We've got receivers back now that are really good out there" Stein said. "Andrell was out there running around. Michaelee is back, and Stephon is back. We've got a lot of guys, and we are very excited about those people."
Strong was off the practice field before 8 a.m. after taking a handful of questions. He tweeted his pleasure with the first workout after the practice.
"Football has officially kicked off this morning with our first practice," Strong said. "Good first day. Guys worked hard."
Whether it was a product of the extra conditioning this summer or a lack of heat at 6 a.m., Stein said he and his teammates were well-prepared for the workout.
Stein said, "It wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be. It was kind of a lighter practice, but I am sure tomorrow we will pick it up even more."