Saban Meets The Media To Open Fall Camp
Nick Saban met with the media in the Naylor Stone Media Room after the first practice of fall camp tonight and it was quite different. Saban spoke to an empty room as the media joined him via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The accomplished Crimson Tide coach talked about his team being out on the field after a tumultuous summer, how his team has handled COVID-19 health and safety protocols and the weekend drama with students on the strip.
"Well it's obviously really great to be on the field. I think the players are really excited about the opportunity to be able to practice, ya know, together as a team, which has kind of been a long time coming," said Saban.
Saban complimented his players in managing the uncertainties of the summer and was complimentary of the progress the players have made physically with new strength and conditioning coaches Dr. Matt Rhea and David Ballou.
The coach stressed the importance of doing things in a safe manor given the coronavirus pandemic and he told the media that all the players were told they did not have to do anything they were not comfortable with.
"We've had less than two percent positive rate since the last month or so, less that one percent the last couple weeks. The personal bubble that guys have to form, outside of here will be a real key to us being able to keep the players safe and keep them healthy," said Saban.
Alabama enlisted the Surgeon General to speak to the team about steps and safety measures they can take in their personal lives as classes on campus get underway on Wednesday.
"Our goals for fall camp are not much different, even though this is not really gonna be camp, it's going to be more like in season practice. is to form hardcore fundamentals of discipline, work ethic, mental and physical toughness to be able to sustain, obviously conditioning is a really important part of that, which we always have to improve on. We want the players to improve their fundamentals in terms of technique but also in their knowledge of offense, defense and special teams systems so that they have the chance to compete, and play well and create value for themselves when and if they get the opportunity to do that," said Saban.
Saban was asked about the potential for any Alabama players to opt-out of the 2020 season and said that would be up to the players to decide and announce for themselves.
Saban said that his players look forward to the playoffs even with two of the major conferences opting out of the season. He said the players who play should have an opportunity to play in a playoff despite the other conference's decisions.
"If we can go through a season and figure out who the best teams are, there would be a lot of interest to see those teams play and I know the players would certainly look forward to playing," said Saban.
Saban described his mask as one you would wear around your neck and pull up, "like you're robbing a bank."
The coach said the players have been tested over and over to ensure the team has confidence that the teammates they are working with are clear and don't have the virus. This allows the team to play best on best because everyone is getting extensively tested.
Saban was asked what area the Tide needs to improve on defensively and he said the team needs to improve overall on that side of the ball, he pointed to the amount of points per game (18.6) the Tide gave up last year and asked for better leadership and better run-stopping as a unit.
Saban talked about being excited to play 10 SEC games but also called the schedule very challenging. He talked about how the schedule is good for the fans but it will require the team to take the year one week at a time.
Finally Saban was asked about the social media photos of students and parents out on the strip enjoying Bid Day without a mask.
"Well ya know, I think democracy is great and I think people that have all these freedoms, that's all great. But I think there's one thing that's probably a common denominator that makes all that work and that's that people really have great moral integrity in the choices and decisions that they make. I'm not criticizing anybody here but a lot of people have asked that we wear masks when we're in public, when we're in crowds, when we're in large groups of people that we keep social distance. I don't think they're doing that just for the heck of it. I think there's a reason for it, we're trying to control the spread of this disease and I think our ability to do that is going to go a long way in saying whether we can play football or not. But bigger than that it's just your own personal bubble for your own personal safety, every one of these students to take the proper care of themselves and respect the protocols that people are recommending for your safety, and I just think that's the smart thing to do," said Saban.