UM, AS Roma renew friendship with skills challenge

Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was on the DL Monday, a hip flexor holding him out of participating in a skills challenge between some of the Michigan and AS Roma soccer players who are in town to play a game this week in Detroit.

Harbaugh and his players have built a relationship with the Italian soccer team, which hosted Michigan’s final spring practice in Rome in April.

“It’s great to see the guys interact and have a little bit of fun,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh is nursing an injury, and while he gave a few pointers to Joe Beneducci, who was in goal to defend penalty kicks, he could not participate in the different drills.

“I wanted to, but I pulled a muscle. Hip flexor I acquired playing softball at Camp Michigania a couple weeks ago,” Harbaugh said. “I was trying to play softball, dads versus the staff and camp members. Tried to chase down fly balls and leg out grounders.”

Harbaugh is planning to attend the AS Roma-Paris Saint-Germain game Wednesday at Comerica Park.

Before that final practice in Rome Harbaugh said he would be interested in having Michigan play an overseas game and said AS Roma’s new stadium that is not yet completed would be a great place. He said he has had “some preliminary conversations” about that possibility.

Senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said the outing Monday renewed some of the relationships with the AS Roma players they made while in Rome.

“It’s been a great experience just from going on a trip, to offseason workouts, and then having this cool experience,” Hurst said. “It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve gotten to experience a lot of new things and stuff that we may not have if we were going to a different school.”

While several of the Wolverines were part of the skills competition, Harbaugh spent time chatting with members of the AS Roma staff. He said he got some tips from them, particularly the way they practice.

“High intensity, hour and a half to two-hour practices, no breaks,” Harbaugh said. “I know for a fact there’s definite crossovers and things we have learned and will continue to learn.”

Harbaugh also believes soccer is something every kid should play.

“I always encourage youngsters in America to play soccer,” he said. “Every American boy should play soccer until the eighth grade and then they should play football. American football.”

Speaking of American football, Harbaugh was asked if his team is ready for the upcoming season.

“That’s the burning question,” he said. “We start practice July 31. Training has been going well as our guys continue the preparations to get started. All deep breaths have been taken, now it’s time to train and get ready for the season.”

The players have been going through summer workouts under the watch of strength coach Kevin Tolbert.

“I’ve been looking in through the keyhole, seeing them working out a few times,” Harbaugh said.

The NCAA is enforcing new practice rules this season. Preseason camp is extended one week, but teams no longer can hold two-a-day practices. There are three non-contact practices per week and one day per week without practice.

“Have to adjust the practice schedules,” Harbaugh said. “The schedule has all been made, practices have been planned out the next year. All the rules that were necessary to put in to the schedule have been put in. For instance, there are new time demands, 14 additional days off during the school year, which have all been planned for. The one day off a week in training camp, that’s been planned for. We moved the training camp up seven days which is part of the new rules. No two a days. All new rules have been implemented and planned for.

“It’s very good, common sense. I don’t think there’s any industry anymore that’s not getting a day off or having two a days or three a days. Pilots don’t do it, resident surgeons don’t do sleep deprivation anymore, either does the military. It just makes sense there should be a day given off per week. Makes all the sense in the world to me.”