Alabama coach Nick Saban, along with two of his star players, pushed back on Monday on the story that players risk getting the coronavirus if the college football season is played this fall.
“I want to play, but I want to play for the players, the value they can create for themselves,” Saban told ESPN. “I know I will be criticized no matter what I say, that I do not care about player safety. Look, players are much safer with us than they run at home. We have a 2% positive attitude on our team since the fourth of July. “It’s much higher than that in society. We act like these guys can’t get this if they don’t play football. They can get it anywhere, whether they̵
With the 2020 football season potentially hanging in the balance when the Big Ten and Pac-12 reportedly are close to canceling their seasons, Saban does not understand the urgency to turn everything off right now.
“It’s going to be a challenge when the other students come on campus, and I get it,” Saban said. “But we really do not know what that means until it happens. That is a big reason why we pushed the season back [in the SEC], to assess it, which is the prudent way to do it. “
Alex Leatherwood, Alabama’s offensive tackle for All America, said players should be able to be heard before any final decisions are made.
“There’s a lot of noise and bad things out there about playing football with the virus going on, but I have not really seen anything about what the players want,” Leatherwood told ESPN. “We’ve been grinding all summer and you do not want it to be for nothing.
“The story that needs to be written is that we want to play.”
Saban said that Alabama tests its players at the beginning of each week and that he brings in an epidemiologist to talk to his team every two weeks.
“We also test anyone who has symptoms and has an open test site where they can go and be tested as many times as they want or whenever they feel they need to,” Saban said. “But our guys will not catch on [the virus] on the soccer field. They will catch it on campus. The argument should then probably be: ‘We should not have a school.’ That’s the argument. Why is it: “We should not play football?” Why has that become the argument? “
Saban met his management board on Monday and held a team meeting later in the day.
“It’s more important than ever to engage your players, and if you do not, you are not doing your job as a coach,” said Saban, who has regularly brought in speakers to address his team.
Since George Floyd was killed on May 25 while on duty in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Alabama players have heard from Condoleezza Rice, Stephen A. Smith, Charles Barkley and Tony Dungy, and have had a chance to ask questions.
“Coach Saban listens to his players and wants to hear from us first,” Alabama senior Najee Harris told ESPN. “He told us that none of this is about him, but it’s about us. He wants to hear our concerns, and we made it clear that we want to play and feel that Alabama is doing everything they can to make sure we can play. for sure “.
Harris told ESPN that he would be willing to sign an exemption and agree not to sue the university if he got the virus. He was part of a Zoom call on Sunday that included about 30 key players from all Power 5 conferences. He said the overwhelming feeling was that they wanted to play as long as all conferences followed the same test protocol and that players who wanted to opt out would not lose their scholarships.
“We want our voices to be heard,” Harris said. “Our biggest demand for the conversation was that we as players know that the players we play against have all gone through the same test guidelines, but we want to play.”
Harris, who is from Antioch, California, said he feels safer in Alabama with all the medical support staff and precautions than he does at home.
Leatherwood added: “We take risks every day, especially in this sport, and life should not end. If there is a chance of long-term effects if you get it and people do not feel comfortable, do not play. Everyone has the right to their rights. But we want to play and we will play. “
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey tweeted that patience should be used when deciding whether to play football during the coronavirus pandemic.
Best advice I have received since COVID-19: “Be patient. Take your time when making decisions. This is completely new and you get better information every day.” @SEC has been intentional at every step since March … slow return to practice … delayed 1st game to respect the start of the fall semester ..
– Greg Sankey (@GregSankey) August 10, 2020
… Developed test protocols … We know there are still concerns. We’ve never had a FB season in a COVID-19 environment. Can we play? I do not know. We have not stopped trying. We support, train and take care of student-athletes every day and will continue to do so … every day.
– Greg Sankey (@GregSankey) August 10, 2020
Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman tweeted that she met the Volunteers football team on Monday.
“At the end of our discussion, I asked if they wanted to play football and the answer was a resounding YES,” said Plowman.