Kramer, Illini trying to make best of no spring practice

  • Illinois offensive lineman Doug Kramer, a Hinsdale Central grad, talked about the dilemma of having to cancel spring football practice before it even started.

    Illinois offensive lineman Doug Kramer, a Hinsdale Central grad, talked about the dilemma of having to cancel spring football practice before it even started. Associated Press File Photo

Updated 3/23/2020 8:43 PM

Illinois was supposed to begin spring football practice Monday. Instead, the players are scattered around the country, unsure of when they'll be together again.

"I was at home for a couple of days," said junior center Doug Kramer, who played at Hinsdale Central. "I came down to Champaign just to grab a few things. So I'll be going back up north soon. There's a few guys around. There's some guys I can reach out to around Champaign. But for the most part, I think everyone's back at home, just resting and hanging out."


Kramer and linebacker Jake Hansen spoke to reporters on a teleconference Monday. Hansen was at his home in Tarpon Springs, Fla.

"We're going to be away from each other for at least 2 or 3 months," Hansen said. "That's something you're obviously going to miss, because you're used to seeing everyone every single day, whether it's in the facility or in class or just your roommates. It's something you're definitely going to miss, but I think we'll pick right back up where we left off and it will be back to that camaraderie."

It's a universal story across the college football world -- spring football practices canceled, along with entire spring sports seasons like baseball, softball and track.

Some schools had the benefit of an early start. Northwestern held eight spring practices, beginning on Feb. 25. Northern Illinois got two practices in before spring break, when concerns over the coronavirus pandemic forced cancellation of the rest.

"It hurts a little bit for sure, because a lot of guys need some development," Hansen said. "Younger dudes that haven't really proven themselves yet that want to earn that spot and put themselves at the top of the rotation."

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Kramer talked about how the players are on their own to work out and stay in shape, while the school's football facilities and most commercial gyms around the country are closed.

"Some of the strength coaches are reaching out to their lifting groups," Kramer said. "Sending out some in-weight room stuff, if you have a weight room you can use. Then if not, they're sending out some body weight stuff, some running stuff. It's kind of just figuring out and adapting to what situation you're in. You've got to stay in shape somehow."

Kramer, a three-year starter, suffered a leg injury in the first half of the Illini's season-ending loss to Northwestern. He didn't play in the Redbox Bowl against California, the program's first bowl game in five years.

"I was going to do as much as I could (in spring practice), try to work in full, 100 percent," Kramer said. "Before spring break, I was cutting, doing a lot of change of direction stuff. So I was feeling really healthy, feeling good and I was excited to get back in spring ball and play football again."


Kramer felt the Illini had a good winter, riding some momentum from coach Lovie Smith's best season on the job. There's no point in complaining, since every football program and the entire country is enduring some tough times right now.

"Mentally, it's tough because obviously you were set to play ball with your brothers that you worked so hard with," Hansen said. "To not be able to play football right before we were about to start, it's a little frustrating. It's not something that just we're dealing with -- the whole country is dealing with it, so you have to remember that. There's people that have lost their lives because of this issue."

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