As much as he would’ve liked to play soccer Monday afternoon, Jim Harbaugh simply couldn’t.
Bothered by a hip flexor injury suffered earlier this month while playing softball against staff and camp members at Camp Michigania, Harbaugh stood by the side and watched as members of the Michigan football team participated in soccer and football related activities with players from AS Roma, an Italian soccer club.
During their trip to Rome in April, the Wolverines practiced at Roma’s facilities. Monday, the team’s manager, CEO and several players made their way to Ann Arbor to spend more time with Harbaugh and Michigan. Roma is slated to play against Paris Saint-Germain at Comerica Park Wednesday night — a matchup that Harbaugh said he is slated to attend.
It was readily apparent that he has developed an appreciation for Roma — especially when it comes to members of the staff, who he spent much of Monday’s activities in spirited conversation with, and midfielder Kevin Strootman. Harbaugh bonded with Strootman over both his competitiveness and his return to top form after two ACL injuries.
“You see how competitive (Strootman) is and I’m sure that bodes well for him in what he does playing football,” Harbaugh said. “It’s great to see the guys interact and have a little bit of fun.”
Monday’s activities, in which Michigan and Roma players competed in several challenges, such as fielding punts, kicking field goals and scoring on penalty kicks, were some of the few remaining moments of levity before the season starts. The Wolverines are set to break for fall camp July 31, and have been preparing with team and player-led workouts for much of the past couple months.
It has been an eventful offseason, to say the least. Many of Michigan’s players left the country for the first time with the trip overseas before the entire team had all of May off to study abroad or pursue internships. Now, the Wolverines are ready, as Harbaugh has said before, to enter the submarine once again.
“All deep breaths have been taken,” Harbaugh said. “Now it’s time to train and get ready for the season.”
Johnson done with football at Michigan
In April, Harbaugh left open the possibility for running back Drake Johnson to return for a sixth year on the team. Now, it appears Johnson’s decision is final, and he won’t be returning to the gridiron for the Wolverines.
“Drake Johnson is going to continue at Michigan, he’s going to take classes this fall,” Harbaugh said Monday. “The latest is he’s not going to participate in football, he’s going to concentrate on track. He’ll be here for another year.”
Johnson’s career at Michigan has been star-crossed, to say the least. He has suffered multiple ACL injuries that have taken him many months to recover from. Johnson was ready to return to the field last spring before yet another setback: He was run over by a forklift and suffered undisclosed injuries that kept him on the sidelines for months.
In his career at Michigan, Johnson appeared in 25 games, tallying 641 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while catching seven passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Harbaugh supportive of Malone-Hatcher’s decision
The Wolverines experienced a recent — and unexpected — departure from the team when freshman defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher announced July 4 that he would be medically retiring from football.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Malone-Hatcher cited an arduous and longer-than-expected recovery from an Achilles injury suffered during high school as the reason for taking a medical exemption. It was a decision that was made with input from Michigan’s training staff and doctors, and Harbaugh expressed his support for the decision Monday afternoon.
“I support it from the standpoint of being very supportive of what Corey and the doctors thought was best,” Harbaugh said. “… It’s a disappointment for his family, for him, for us coaches, for everybody concerned in terms of football, there was high hopes there.
“But as he said — and I thought he said it very well — you can still get a great education, can still be a great Michigan man and be able to participate as a student-intern if he so chooses, so there’s other ways that he can contribute.”
Malone-Hatcher, ranked as a four-star recruit according to 247Sports, enrolled early in January and took part in spring practices. He was not expected to contribute this year, though he would’ve had an opportunity to provide depth along a relatively young and inexperienced defensive line.