University of Alabama softball assistant coach Alyson Habetz was by Claire Jenkins’ side as she went from doctor to doctor on the October day when she injured her ACL. If their conversations reflected what was hurting Jenkins the most, it had nothing to do with her knee or the surgery and months of physical therapy that lie ahead.

She was not mourning the loss of a senior season: she had a redshirt year in pocket, with plans to use it in 2020 and play in 2021. She was coming to terms with a senior season played with a group of seniors that isn’t her own.

“The whole time, the thing that was hitting me the hardest was I won’t be able to go out with the people I came in with,” Jenkins said. “We’ve grown so close together, we see each other every day, we talk about everything with each other.

“Come to find out they’re all going to come back, that’s really been the icing on top of the cake. It’s been amazing to hear they’re coming back so I can finish with them.”

Jenkins’ return for the 2021 season was never in doubt, but UA softball’s other six seniors had decisions to make. With all of them coming back, Jenkins’ senior season will proceed the way she envisioned it. All that’s left is for her to get healthy for it.

The knee rehabilitation process is different now that Jenkins is back home in her native Cullman.

“For sure, because now I’m not with my trainers and everything down in Tuscaloosa,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been doing things on my own, but it’s also given me more time to slow things down a lot and really make sure my knee gets back to 100 percent.”

For example, Jenkins is getting back to running a little slower than she otherwise would, since UA does not have its certified trainers and other experts monitoring her daily in person. Even with the more cautious approach from a distance, Jenkins said her timeline has not changed, anticipating she will be ready when fall practice begins.

“My trainer has a list of everything I’m supposed to do. I have a few weight sets and bands at home, so every day I have a good bit of rehab to do with my dad, if he can help me,” she said. “A lot of squats and band work, running, stuff like that.”

While not ideal from a medical perspective, in a way, doing the physical therapy from distance is better than working through it with a front-row seat to the season she is missing.

“For me, it was more difficult when I was around the games and everything every day, around practice,” Jenkins said. “I got to see what I was missing every day. Now I get to take a step back and focus on myself and healing up; I’m not always missing being out there with my teammates because no one gets to be out there right now.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson

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