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January 2, 2013FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. | Barrett Jones says he's ready. Kenny Bell hasn't said a word.
Bell, the University of Alabama's junior wide receiver, is seeking to recover from a broken leg sustained in the Iron Bowl against Auburn just six weeks ago to play in Monday's BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame.
"It went well. It went well," UA coach Nick Saban said when asked about Jones' and Bell's progress at Wednesday's on-campus practice.
Bell has been withheld from contact since bowl preparations began and has not been made available for comment. Saban has indicated little about the possibility of the Crimson Tide's leader in yards per catch (25.4) being ready to play.
As for Jones, the boot on his foot that accompanied him off the team flight belies his confidence that he will be ready. But the bet against the decorated senior center is a losing one, according to Jones.
"Is that what they're saying these days?," Jones said when asked about his return to the practice field Tuesday and the progress therein. "... No, really, I feel good. I'm really starting to feel good, and I'm really confident about playing in the game."
While the Crimson Tide has had 11 practices since bowl preparations began a week before Christmas, Jones has had only two because of a foot injury sustained in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game against Georgia. He began bowl preparations in a cast and on a stationary bike. Since then, he has progressed to rejoin teammates on the field but is still wearing a boot when not practicing.
Jones has said he would not miss Monday's game since the night he was injured, but whether the injury will allow him to play effectively is another matter and will be a subplot as the Crimson Tide prepares.
Saban said the team's experience with the BCS title setting - seniors are preparing for their third career national championship game, and all but the true freshmen are preparing for their second - could be of benefit this week.
"If we come out and play really well, I guess you could say it does help. I think our guys, because they've been here before, maybe they'll handle some of the distractions a little better," Saban said. "That might be a benefit. But the focus needs to be on what you need to do to play your best football. Regardless of the circumstances and hype surrrounding the game, that's what you want your players focused on."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.