CHAPEL HILL (AP) — North Carolina started preseason practice with suspended cornerback Malik Simmons back on the team.
Coach Larry Fedora said Monday he reinstated Simmons, who had been held out of all football-related activities since July 24, after he was arrested that week in Chapel Hill on a resisting arrest charge. He also was arrested May 16 on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession.
Fedora said he would wait for the legal process to play out before deciding on disciplinary action.
“And there will be, obviously, consequences in the future,” Fedora added.
Simmons had been due in court Monday, but a spokeswoman for the Orange County clerk of court’s office said that court appearance is now scheduled for Thursday.
The 21-year-old went through drills in shorts and a helmet along with the rest of his teammates during the Tar Heels’ first practice.
Simmons started five of 12 games last season, made 34 tackles, broke up three passes and forced a fumble. He was listed as a co-starter at one corner on the depth chart in the team’s media guide.
The Tar Heels were the first of the state’s four Atlantic Coast Conference teams to begin practice. North Carolina State starts Tuesday, followed by Duke on Wednesday and Wake Forest later in the week.
Monday also marked the first preseason practice for defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. The coach who helped Auburn win a national title in 2010 was brought in last winter to revamp a defense that ranked among the nation’s worst in 2014 — allowing 498 yards and 39 points a game.
The Tar Heels spent the spring installing a conventional 4-3 base defense after opponents torched their 4-2-5 alignment.
And — after Day 1, at least — Fedora liked what he saw.
“Today you’re looking for recall. You’re looking for what guys look like when they’re running around,” Fedora said. “You’re looking to see what the freshmen look like because this is the first time we’ve seen them move around, so it was interesting to watch.
“And you want to see great effort and great attitudes,” he added. “I want to see this on practice 16. I want to see the exact same thing we saw today.”
There aren’t nearly as many concerns about an offense that returns its entire starting line, three capable running backs, dual-threat quarterback Marquise Williams and key receiver Ryan Switzer.
“I’ve been around here five years,” Williams said, “and nobody’s ever been as excited to go into training camp as we were this year.”
Receiver Quinshad Davis, who broke his leg during the Quick Lane Bowl loss to Rutgers, also made his return to the practice field. Davis caught 41 passes for 470 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Williams said after Davis ran a particularly impressive route, “he said, ‘I’ve got my legs back under me.’ “