COLLEGE PARK — Newly named Maryland athletic director Damon Evans said at his introductory news conference Tuesday that there is no timetable for the football team to return to regularly scheduled offseason workouts more than on a voluntary basis after the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.
“DJ [Durkin] made practices voluntary last I talked to him because he wanted to have that structure there available for them, but be mindful that people grieve in different ways,” Evans said. “We’ve had players who haven’t come to the workouts. All the kids that haven’t shown up have been communicated to and they’ve communicated with us.
“The numbers aren’t that large, but some players simply said they didn’t want to go work out until Jordan was laid to rest. We’ve got to respect that. At the end of the day, you don’t want a young man to go out on that field if he is not really ready. Let’s provide them with the counseling, the support that they need. … We’re going to slowly ramp it back up.”
McNair, 19, a redshirt freshman from Randallstown who starred at McDonogh, died June 13, a little over two weeks after he had problems recovering from an organized team workout.
Evans said Walters Inc., the sports medicine consulting firm Maryland hired to conduct an external investigation to make sure protocols were followed, has already begun to look into McNair's death.
“They’ve started their process of gathering information, that’s the first part,” Evans said. “They will come on campus and meet with our staff, people that were involved. It’s going to be staff, student-athletes, whatnot. We’re going to be fully transparent with that. It’s about a 90-day process. That’s where we are with it and as we find out more we’ll continue to update.”
University president Wallace D. Loh said he didn’t consider holding off on the the announcement of Evans’ hiring in light of McNair’s death.
“I don’t know how long that review is going to take,” Loh said. “They are bringing in outside reviewers and that might take awhile. It will take a long time.”
Loh acknowledged earlier that Tuesday’s news conference was more low-key — including what seemed like a moment of silence between when Loh was introduced and when he took the podium to talk about the hiring of Evans — because of McNair’s death.
“This announcement is perhaps a little more somber, more quiet than we would otherwise do because we are all still grieving for Jordan McNair, who as you know tragically passed away at the age of 19,” Loh said. “Known as a gentle giant and we will forever remember him wearing No. 79. We are all still grieving. This is a very happy day, but at the same time all of us are mourning for him, his family and his friends."
Said Evans: “We lost a member of our family, a young man who just with his smile lighted up a room. A young man who loved Chipotle Thursday, which his roommate is going to continue. But at his [funeral] services, we got to see what he was really about by the people who filled the room, the people who showed up. The representation of his life. Let us not forget Jordan McNair because he will forever be a part of who we are.”