TUSCALOOSA | The first time Kenny Bell was seen at a University of Alabama football practice after breaking his leg against Auburn, he was riding a stationary bike with his good leg only. Not long after that, he was jogging. And on Jan. 7 when the Crimson Tide takes on Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game, he hopes to be doing a lot more.
When UA's bowl preparations began a week before Christmas, coach Nick Saban said it was unclear whether Bell would be able to play against the Fighting Irish.
It still is.
But teammates have been impressed by the determination the junior from Rayville, La., has shown in making the attempt.
"He's doing great. He's doing his best to come back. I feel for him," said wide receiver Kevin Norwood. "This is something he wants to do. He's practiced hard all year, back in the summertime, doing extra work and stuff like that. He wants to be out there with us."
Sophomore Christion Jones said he has been surprised at the progress Bell has made already.
"It does (surprise)," Jones said. "He's recovering quick and hopefully he'll be back and ready to play against Notre Dame."
Bell continues to be withheld from contact in practice, and it's been clear that his jogging stride has favored his recovering left leg. He was injured on a first-half run by T.J. Yeldon for 19 yards against Auburn when, after delivering an effective block on the play, Auburn linebacker Jake Holland fell onto Bell's leg upon missing a tackle.
Roughly six weeks separate Bell's injury from the title game against Notre Dame, a short window of recovery for a serious injury. But there is some precedent for it. With roughly the same recovery time, former NFL star receiver Terrell Owens came back from a broken leg - to the surprise of many doubters - to play in the 2005 Super Bowl for the Philadelphia Eagles. Norwood, for one, won't be surprised if Bell does the same.
"Well, for some people it might be crazy, but I've been around him a long time and I know he wants this," Norwood said. "He wants to be out there with us. I know he's working hard to be out there with us."
Xs and Os
When the Crimson Tide lines up for field goals and PATs, the front lines up in reverse order of the normal offense, with right guard and tackle Anthony Steen and D.J. Fluker lining up on the left side, and left guard and tackle Chance Warmack and Cyrus Kouandjio lining up on the right side. According to UA coach Nick Saban, the logic is that, because the linemen collapse inside on kicks, they are more comfortable on opposite sides because they otherwise would have to change their stance.
"When you're stepping down inside, you actually change your stance. So if you play left tackle, you play in a left-hand stance. But if you stayed at left tackle, you would play in a right-hand stance, because you interlock with your inside foot down and your inside hand back," Saban said. "So if you want a guy to play in the same stance he's used to playing in, you just put him on the other side."
"He's probably one of the hardest-working people I know, day-in and day-out. He might even come in with a bad attitude, but he'll flip as soon as practice starts and he'll get everybody up and we'll go at it and play. He'll play at a high level, so I have to learn to keep it up."
- left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio on left guard Chance Warmack.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.