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December 19, 2011

Long layoff gives Tide players chance to mend

TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama resumes practice after a three-week layoff today as on-field preparations begin for the BCS National Championship Game against LSU on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

The Crimson Tide has been weightlifting and doing conditioning work since the regular season ended against Auburn on Nov. 26. Now the team will turn its focus to getting ready for a second national championship game berth in the last three years. Alabama lost to LSU 9-6 in overtime on Nov. 5, but later rose to the No. 2 position in the BCS standings to set up a rematch for the national title.

The team will practice through the week before taking a break for the Christmas holiday and is expected to resume practicing on Dec. 28. UA students completed final exams last week, and a dozen Alabama football players were among more than 40 UA student-athletes to receive degrees Saturday.

Football players in the group included Undra Billingsley, Robert Lester, John Michael Boswell, Marquis Maze, Brad Smelley, Chris Jordan, Courtney Upshaw, Darius Hanks, Dont'a Hightower, DeQuan Menzie, Brandon Lewis and Brandon Gibson.

The layoff also provided some time to heal for several Alabama players who finished the season playing with minor injuries.

Of those, running back Eddie Lacy and safety Mark Barron may benefit most from the time off. Barron missed much of the Auburn game with an injury to his ribs, sustained the previous week against Georgia Southern.

"He has a similar injury to what Javy (Arenas) had," Saban said after the Auburn game. "It's a cartilage rib deal. It's not a serious injury but it's very painful, especially when you are moving around. Hopefully in a couple of weeks that will help him."

Lacy was saddled with turf toe, a painful ailment that can be slow to heal, in Alabama's late-September win against Arkansas. Although he remained effective in game action, Lacy was limited in practice and played more sparingly for the balance of the season. His 7.5-yard per carry average led all Southeastern Conference running backs with at least 20 carries.

"I think having the extra time with Eddie's (Lacy) toe will certainly enhance his chances of coming back and being able to play better and for longer than he has in the last few games," Saban added.

Linemen Barrett Jones (ankle) and Josh Chapman (knee) missed the Georgia Southern game with injuries, but both returned to play effectively against Auburn.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.


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