Several key UCLA football players are calling for Justin Combs to return to the squad ... telling TMZ Sports the guy is a hard worker and a good friend ... and he's getting a bad rap.
As we previously reported, Combs -- a redshirt junior -- was asked to stay away from strength and conditioning drills for the rest of the summer ... prompting the kettlebell incident involving his dad.
Now, we've spoken with 3 members of the UCLA football team -- important guys -- who tell us they respect Justin and don't want him off the team.
As one player put it ... "Justin is a great friend and teammate. He works hard on and off the field. I hope he comes back."
Another player said, "He is a really cool guy to be around and I hope he does come back."
Player #3 says, "Justin works hard everyday. We go out on our own together and work on our footwork and lift weights outside of practice. I feel the coaches should let him back on the team. I know we want him back."
Multiple sources connected to the situation tell us ... Combs has not returned to UCLA since the incident ... and no decision has been made on his future with the Bruins.