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March 17, 2010

Refreshed Meyer returns to UF sideline

The Florida football team was back on the field Wednesday for the start of spring practice.

More importantly, so was its leader.

Looking happy, energetic and loose after returning from his health-related leave of absence, head coach Urban Meyer blew into his whistle several times and barked out orders frequently during the two-hour session, part of which took place under a steady rain.

"I felt good," Meyer said. "It was a good day today."

Naturally, the biggest question was this:

Was the 45-year-old coach, who has led the Gators to two national titles, back for good?

"Yeah," he said matter-of-factly.

Three weeks after complaining of chest pains, Meyer announced his sudden resignation in December as Florida prepared for the Sugar Bowl. A day later, though, he did an equally stunning about-face, instead deciding to take an indefinite leave.

Meyer's plan was to step back a bit.

But after the bowl, he hired assistants and helped land arguably the country's top recruiting class. After national signing day, Meyer finally took his leave.

He played golf.

He relaxed as much as possible.

He even visited Hawaii.

About two weeks ago, Meyer got back to work.

At Wednesday's practice, some media members observed that it appeared as though Meyer was less involved than in the past. At first he agreed, but later Meyer said, "in the spring time, I'm usually like this. I let our guys coach."

According to Meyer, "I'm not altering at all."

As has been the case since December, Meyer was coy about specifics regarding his health, declining to give details about any recent test results.

Instead, he was brief, simple, pointed.

"It's good," Meyer said of his situation.

Then, he joked, "Thanks for your concern."

When Meyer was out, Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio was the person tasked with holding down the fort as interim coach. As uncertainty swirled about when and if Meyer would return, Addazio said he simply tried to keep his eyes moving "forward."

On Wednesday, he seemed pleased to see his boss -- and friend -- return.

Meyer's players had similar emotions.

"He's fine," starting quarterback John Brantley said. "He's his same, old self. I'm just happy he's back out here."


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