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January 3, 2012TUSCALOOSA | Barrett Jones knew exactly watching from the sideline with a high ankle sprain felt like.
Less than a year earlier, he'd been through exactly that experience in missing, among other action, the University of Alabama's 28-27 Iron Bowl home loss to Auburn.
It wasn't going to happen again -- at least not on the night of Nov. 5.
So when Jones sprained his ankle in the first half of the Crimson Tide's 9-6 overtime loss to LSU, he looked a trainer squarely in the eye and told him, "I'm not coming out of this game."
And with the exception of a brief trip to the locker room to re-tape the ankle, he didn't.
For the balance of what was the biggest, most-watched regular-season game of the year, however, nobody played through more pain than Alabama's All-Southeastern Conference left tackle.
"Barrett pushed through in the game he got hurt. He's a strong-willed guy," said left guard Chance Warmack, who knew something wasn't right with the veteran whom he had lined up beside all season. "We actually knew he was hurt during the drive. They were trying to take him out and he argued and said, 'I'm going to finish the game.' I respect him for that."
As Alabama prepares to play in the BCS National Championship Game, once again against LSU, Jones is getting a second shot at his second national title.
And a second chance to play it with two healthy ankles.
Jones initially stayed in the LSU game after being injured, but aggravated the problem later in the game, requiring a trip to the locker room.
"I thought I would try to play through it. The next drive, I was taking on a power rush, and I planted on it and it popped again, real bad," Jones said. "It was weak. I fell down. I did stay in for one more play I think, but then I came out and said, 'I've got to go to the locker room, get more tape or whatever.'"
While the injury wasn't enough to keep Jones out of the LSU game, it was severe enough to sideline him for two subsequent games against Mississippi State and Georgia Southern. He was replaced in the lineup by fifth-year senior Alfred McCullough, but returned in time to play against Auburn to finish the regular season.
Jones said he would have been honest with the UA training staff if he didn't believe he could have finished the game as an effective player. As such, he doesn't think his injury had a significant impact on Alabama's second-half offense against the Tigers.
"I had to kind of just figure out a way to block on one leg," he said. "But looking back, I don't think I played that bad. When you're playing out there with adrenalin running, it helps get you through."
Jones said he believes the knee braces often worn by linemen create a level of vulnerability for the ankle.
"The reason you see a lot of ankle injuries on linemen is, when you get hit in the side of the leg, your knee won't buckle with a knee brace on," Jones said. "Well, the pressure's got to go somewhere, so it goes to your ankle. The ankle just kind of popped."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.