TUSCALOOSA _ As the University of Alabama football team prepares to hold its final on-campus practice of the 2010 season, which will be held Wednesday before the team breaks for the Christmas holiday, a stomach bug has started making the rounds in the locker room.
Although Coach Nick Saban did not name those afflicted, five players were absent or limited during Tuesday's practice. Because the illness appears to be contagious, the team is trying to isolate them before it really spreads.
Consequently, between that and a number of others being held out for different reasons a number of younger players and reserves got more snaps than usual.
Junior linebacker Chris Jordan was excused for personal reasons. Senior linebacker Chavis Williams sustained a minor head injury Monday and sophomore cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick had his foot stepped on. Both began Tuesday's drills in crimson but transitioned to black, non-contact jerseys during the observation period.
Kirkpatrick's injury isn't considered serious. Junior Phelon Jones filled in for him at left cornerback during a dime-package drill and true freshman Jarrick Williams worked some at money in the dime with the second unit but is still expected to medically redshirt this season due to a shoulder injury.
Junior cornerback DeQuan Menzie sported an elbow brace for part of the observation period. Freshman linebacker Adrian Hubbard is still out with back spasms.
Freshman linebacker Jonathan Atchison (bicep) and sophomore cornerback B.J. Scott (ankle) rode exercise bikes during practice. There was no sign of junior safety Mark Barron (pectoral).
"We did have a good work day today, Sunday was a good day for us," Saban said. "Yesterday probably not what we wanted in term of overall mental intensity, but when you practice this many days in a row it's kind of hard to get everyone going every day. I think it's necessary work that we need to do to play in the game, especially when you get to the bowl site you don't have as much meeting time, as much time to install things, so you want players to have a good sense of what's expected of them before you get there.
"All in all, the work has been pretty good.
Spartans receiver out
Michigan State's leading receiver B.J. Cunningham has been ruled out for the Capital One Bowl after sustaining a broken foot during Saturday's practice that required surgery. He had 50 catches during the regular season including nine touchdowns, and was second in receiving yards with 611.
"B.J. Cunningham is a great competitor and he's extremely disappointed to be out for the Capital One Bowl," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. "Fortunately, wide receiver is a position of strength for this football team, so B.J.'s injury will provide opportunities for others to step forward and make plays for us offensively."
Mark Dell is Michigan State's other top receiver. He had 49 catches for 761 yards and six touchdowns, while four other players had at least 15 catches and 200 yards. In comparison, Alabama also had six total players achieve those numbers.
"They have really good skill receivers," Saban said. "You look at third down they have three guys who had almost the same number of catches. It's like they have one significant guy that if they were missing that guy it would make a huge difference.
"The big thing is the quarterback has played really well this year."
Alabama is already doing some minor renovations on the facilities at Dr. Phillips High School, where it will practice next week in Orlando. "We always try and upgrade anything that we can, especially for player safety," Saban said. "We said that we would work on the fields and also the locker rooms for the sake of improving them for our use and the school will benefit from because we can't take them with us. We did that last year, we had some work done on the fields where we practiced."
Saban on if senior walk-on receiver Rob Ezell _ who does the dead-on impersonation of him _ should get into football coaching: "If I were him I'd probably impersonate people. Probably make more money, probably have a better career, better job security, probably won't have to work as many hours, or have to work on holidays. ... He's got talent, he ought to use it. He'd be a good coach, though."
The coach took time to wish happy holidays to media, fans, supporters and "people at the university who have supported the team all year long."