ATLANTA — Falcons Coach Dan Quinn walked up to the podium on Wednesday saying the words football fans have been waiting to here: "Alright, it's game week!"
Football in Georgia makes its return this weekend after uncertainties whether it would ever get off the ground during the pandemic.
Georgia Tech starts its season on the road at Florida State, and the Atlanta Falcons start their season at home against the Seattle Seahawks.
More teams will join in the following weeks. UGA starts its season on Sept. 26, significantly later after the SEC redid the schedule to eliminate non-conference games.
While the United State surpasses 6.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, football may seem menial and unimportant. However, Wednesday during his media availability, UGA running backs coach Dell McGee was asked about the importance of playing football during this challenging time in history.
“I just feel like it brings normalcy. Football and particularly athletics in general, it allows everyone to move away from that space and look at it and enjoy the game we all grew up loving. I think it’s really, really good for our kids—being cooped up and not being able to do spring ball and their normal routine," he said.
"Just being able to come back and practice and have the social interaction, the everyday interaction we have with our players has been beneficial to them, as well as us as coaches," McGee said. "I think we have done a great job as a staff, medical staff and insuring that all of our players are safe and everyone feels comfortable moving forward."
Georgia Tech players echoed that same mentality. They're ready to do something other than practice against people in the same helmets as them.
"We've been following the protocols," senior linebacker David Curry said. "Guys are not going out or even going to restaurants. We're following the protocols. We're going home after [practice] and putting our masks up if we're around each other."
It's a responsibility players at all levels have taken seriously-- from high school to NFL-- just to play football. But after all of that-- will the play even be worth watching?
There was no spring football in college. The NFL had no preseason games, a time where coaches and players figure out schemes and try out different players.
While Quinn said you may see adjustments in games the first few weeks, quarterback Matt Ryan thinks the quality of play will be good.
"I don't think it's going to take four weeks to get back for what everyone is used to seeing," Ryan said.
Stadiums will be at limited capacity, so much so that even Georgia's mascot "UGA" won't be at the games because of conferences rules regarding essential personnel.
But looking past the weirdness of empty stadiums and masks on the sidelines, there'll still be big backs, sacks, first downs and touchdowns.
Football is back, which makes quarantine a little bit more exciting.