KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The importance of mental health has grown, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tennessee football players used their bye week to rehab injuries, relax and refocus on what’s important — including taking care of their mental health.

Vols defensive back Alontae Taylor said he used the open week to clear his mind. While difficult at times, the senior leader said they’re still working on continuing mental health conversation in the locker room. He added he has taken the steps to reach out to the available resources.

Coach Josh Heupel stressed the importance of his players’ mental health in his Thursday press conference saying it’s at the forefront of their jobs as coaches.

“It’s why we approach coaching and teaching the way that we do,” Heupel said. “We’re instructors. For young people, I think it’s finding balance in what they do as a student-athlete.

“From the pressures of playing college football at the highest level to academics, to the social life that inevitability 18- to 22-year-olds are going to have, along with finding out who they are and how they’re growing, these are issues that come up in daily life for our players. They still have real lives.”

Heupel added that coaches are a resource for his players to utilize, but the student-athletes also have access to professional help.