TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — As Alabama has put player after player in the NFL, more negative connotations have come out each year about how the players are handled in Tuscaloosa.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. once questioned if Alabama players have hit their ceilings before they enter the league. Others have wondered if Alabama players are overrated simply because of the system they’re in during college.
But one of the longest-running knocks against Alabama players has been that they are worn down before they get to the NFL, particularly Alabama’s running backs.
As expected, Alabama coach Nick Saban isn’t happy with this assessment. During an interview with Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN Seattle, Saban pushed back at the perception that his players are run into the ground (Saban’s interview starts around the 23-minute mark).
“I think that’s really unfair,” Saban said. “We use a catapult system here, which is a GPS system that measures wear and tear on players. We certainly keep a balance on what we do. We also keep a record of how our players progress through the season and how they finish the season based on the workload we have. Those players all improve their workload throughout the season. We had the lowest injury rate of any team in our conference, which is the only way we can measure it. I think a lot of those things are not even true.”
While draft analysts and other pundits have tried to argue that this is a common thought among NFL teams and personnel, Saban said that’s not the case.
“When you talk to NFL teams, none of them ever say that to me. I don’t know where that came from,” Saban said. “Eddie Lacy comes out of here and is rookie of the year, and he’s a running back. Where’s the wear and tear? We had 45 guys on NFL rosters last year, which is more than any other college team, so where’s the wear and tear? I don’t see it. Dr. (Lyle) Cain and Dr. (James) Andrews are our team doctors who deal with a lot of NFL players. They monitor what we do with players.
“I don’t think this is factual. I actually resent the fact that anybody in the NFL — with the access we give them, the things we do to try to help them, because I coached in the NFL for eight years — that anyone would make a statement like that and hurt our program, if it were true. I don’t get that. I have heard people in the media say that before, but I haven’t heard anybody in the NFL actually say that.”
During last month’s NFL draft, Alabama had seven players get drafted in the first 73 picks, including center Ryan Kelly at No. 18 overall in the first round. Over the last eight years, Alabama has had 55 players drafted, including 18 in the first round and 35 in the first three rounds.