GUTHRIE, Okla. — After a five-week hiatus, the Professional Bull Riders are back to bucking and it never felt so good.
"A little different situation but it felt food to be back," professional rider Tye Chandler (No. 23 in world standings) said.
The PBR is one of the first sports in America to get back to competition amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
"First, I think everyone takes a lot of pride in the sport that we were the first ones back, we embrace being safe and going about it the right way," Chandler said.
However, the return comes hand-in-hand with tremendous safety precautions in every facet of putting on an event.
"When they get here, they're medically screened, we take their temperature, security also asks the CDC questions for screening," PBR Commissioner Sean Gleason said. "We're also issuing everyone protective gear, they'll get plenty of gloves, safety glasses. All the guys will be wearing their bandannas when they're in here. Flank men will have respirators on. We're just going to do this with an abundance of caution and minimize the risk."
The first two weekends are taking place without fans at the 300-acre Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. While there's a little less juice in the crowd, the chance to ride, earn a living and entertain in the process is a pretty fair compromise.
"Once you're back there, your normal routine kind of kicked in," Chandler said. "The fans are the biggest thing, without them we couldn't do what we do and we're just glad we were able to bring something to them."
In its 27-year history, there are a lot of first these days. Still, it's a bullish return many professional sports leagues are hoping to be able to make in the coming weeks.
"The PBR takes the Coronavirus very seriously, it's nothing to mess around with but at some point we need to get back to business," Gleason said.
Following a week off, the tour returns on May 9th and 10th for the Cooper Tire Invitational.