Countdown to Kickoff
Football Team Returns to Practice



Dec. 19, 2009


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – After a two-week break, the Alabama football team returned to the practice field on Saturday afternoon to begin preparations for its BCS National Championship Game against the Texas Longhorns.

No. 1 Alabama (13-0, 8-0 SEC) and No. 2 Texas (13-0, 8-0 Big 12) will meet in the BCS National Championship Game on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.  The game will be nationally televised by ABC Sports.

The Crimson Tide had not practiced since beating Florida 32-13 in the 2009 SEC Championship Game, so the first two days of practice this week will be dedicated to fundamentals.

Coach Saban also said that senior offensive lineman Drew Davis and sophomore linebacker Dont’a Hightower were excused from Saturday’s practice due to an illness.

Alabama will practice again on Sunday and continue workouts through Wednesday, December 23, before breaking for the Christmas holidays.  The team will return to Tuscaloosa on Sunday, December 27 and practice through December 31 before departing for the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 1, 2010.

Coach Nick Saban met with the media on Saturday evening following the Crimson Tide’s first bowl practice and here are some of his comments:

Opening Comments:
“Well it was really good to get back to practice today.  We were anxious as coaches to get back to work.  We had a really god workout.  It was upbeat with good tempo for the first day back. I think the focus and emphasis on these first two practices is really on fundamentals, doing the basics, doing a lot of the practice-like stuff we would do more in camp when we start to get ready for the season because the players have had a couple of weeks off, even though they worked out three times during finals week and worked out on their own three times while they were home. Still, carrying the gear, going to practice is something they’ve got to get back into and used to.  We are going to work five days here until (Dec. 23) and then break for Christmas and then come back here on Dec. 27 and practice through (Dec. 31).  Travel on the (Jan. 1) and have a normal work week out there when we get out there.

“I’d like to congratulate all the players that we have that got post-season honors. There are many.  I am proud of each and every one of them, but even more so, the guys that won the national awards whether it’s the Heisman, the Butkus or Lambert, or whatever it is.  Those are really team awards and I think everybody on our team should be proud of the part they played in helping those players have success.  I think all of our players were very generous in sharing the awards when they received them.  All the other players were very happy for those players and feel good about the fact that people got recognition outside.  We also had five guys announced today in the Senior Bowl, which is a great opportunity for those guys and hopefully we’ll get some other guys in some other all-star games so they can do that.

“Our focus right now is really on this game.  It’s kind of a one-game season.  Our players need to focus on playing their best football.  It’s not about what’s going on outside of here. That’s the way we need to practice.  That’s what we need to do. That’s how we need to prepare. They can assume they are probably playing against the best player they have played against all year, and maybe the best team.  Teams like this don’t get into the championship game if they don’t know how to win, if they don’t expect to win and don’t know how to do it. It’s important that we get back to where we are physical and aggressive in what we’re doing and we play with the mental and physical toughness that we need to play that kind of trademarks our team, as well as the fact that we need to get back to excellent execution in terms of that we’re doing.  Those are the things we’re really concerned about trying to accomplish, especially reestablishing those things in these first five practices.

“Drew Davis was sick today.  Dont’a Hightower was sick today.  Those two guys were medically kept away from the other players and from practice. We are hopeful they will both be ready to go tomorrow. It will be day-to-day with those guys.”

On team’s academic status heading into BCS Game:
“We had a good semester academically.  We don’t have any academic casualties.  We didn’t even have anybody that passed just six credits.  We were well above where we need to be.”

On getting team focused on this game after all the hype and awards the last two weeks:
“I think every player has got to manage his business. I think you get ready to play a game in every way.  I don’t think any award that a player got is going to help us have success in the next game.  I think every player has to manage himself and make sure he remembers the things that he did to be a good enough player to be recognized to win an award. That’s what he needs to continue to do.  We need to be looking forward at the challenge ahead and not be concerned about what’s been accomplished to this point.  I’ve talked to the players about that and I think it’s important to understand what it takes to be successful and the focus that it takes to get ready to play and game like this and what it takes to win a game like this.  I think they understand and they worked hard today.”

On what Mike Johnson has meant to the offense this year:
“Mike has been an outstanding player for us and he has been recognized on several All-American teams by his consistent performance and good play, but I also think, probably more importantly from a team standpoint, he was elected team captain by his peers because of his leadership that he provides.  I think our offensive line, which started the season being a little bit of a question mark certainly has been an area of this team that he impacted quite a bit with his leadership and his performance and his example.  It doesn’t go unnoticed with us as coaches is the impact that he had on the other people that he plays with and how his positive energy and enthusiasm helped those guys play better, which really in turn helped out team be a lot more successful.”

On learning the culture of Alabama football and the fans learning about you as a coach:
“The second part of that, you will have to ask the Alabama fans because I don’t really know the answer to that and I would not want to speak for them.  I have tremendous amount of respect for the passion and the tradition and all the people that worked hard for many years, which was Coach (Paul) Bryant, primarily, in establishing that tradition.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach (Gene) Stallings and what he accomplished here, the number of games he won, the national championship that he won and the program that he had.  I see all the people who contributed to the success of the program here, the players included, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for that.  But, really guys, there’s no place in the country that they don’t expect to win. They expected to win at LSU. They expect to win here. That’s the expectation.  If you’re a coach and you don’t know that and all the love that you get, whether its love or it’s tolerated.  It’s conditional on one thing.  You know what that is?  It’s winning a game.  They have been a tremendous part of our team here since we’ve been here and helping us build a program.  They have been positive.  They’ve been very supportive.  It’s helped our recruiting.  It’s helped out enthusiasm on our team this year and the support they’ve given us home and away and created a tremendous atmosphere for our players to play in and it’s a significant part of the team that helps us be successful and I appreciate that, more than they know.