TUSCALOOSA | University of Alabama football players are approaching the end of a three-week break from practice, but that doesn't mean the Crimson Tide hasn't been active.
UA coach Nick Saban said the team would engage in a conditioning program after its 42-14 win over Auburn to keep players in shape before on-field preparations begin for the BCS National Championship Game against LSU. Practice is set to resume Monday.
The team will practice through next week before taking a break for the Christmas holiday.
"This is the time of the year when championships can get won or lost, and I'm talking about whatever game you play in," Saban said following the Auburn game. "It's how you manage these weeks where you are not practicing every day like you're used to for the entire season. It's what you eat, what you drink, how you work out, and academics. Every choice and decision that you make needs to be a good one, so you're in a position to be able to take advantage of whatever opportunity you get."
That has included weightlifting, conditioning, and what Saban described as "simulated training." Schoolwork also has the attention of players this week with final exams closing out the fall academic term.
Former UA tight end Colin Peek, who experienced an extended winter layoff of his own as a member of UA's 2009 national championship team, said players have little difficulty getting back into the practice routine after the time off.
"When you come back, you get that renewed sense of urgency. You're excited to get back on the field. There are certain things you want to work on," Peek said. "Your body is so beat up at the end of the season, you go back out on the practice field and you feel fresher, faster, quicker, lighter. And there's an elevated focus because you understand this is a one-game season now, and you can zero in on some things you didn't do well during the year."
Peek said getting final exams out of the way before practice re-starts allows the players to focus more heavily on football as well.
The time off has afforded a much-needed period of healing for several players who played through minor injuries during the season. Among those players dealing with such issues at or near the end of the regular season were safety Mark Barron (ribs), lineman Barrett Jones (ankle), nose guard Josh Chapman (knee), and running back Eddie Lacy (toe).
"You definitely come back feeling better than you've felt for most of the year," Peek said. "Even the guys who aren't technically injured come back to practice with something extra."
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.