Watkins Has Made Quick Recovery

What did he know and when did he know it? No, this is not some political expose. Not even an NCAA investigation. It's a story that appears headed for a happy ending in one week.

Just when Alabama strongside linebacker Alex Watkins was getting into the thick of the fight for playing time, he suffered a knee injury last spring. The 6-3, 240-pound fifth-year senior from Brownsville, Tenn., felt the twinge in his knee. "I thought, ‘I'll probably be back in two or three days.' Then I went to the doctor and he said, ‘You tore your ACL.'"

The next stop after surgery was to Jeff Allen, who is director of Alabama's sports medical team. Allen told him with conscientious rehabilitation Watkins might be back by "September or October."

Watkins was redshirted in 2007, didn't play in 2008, and saw only limited action in 2009 before starting to play on special teams and in a back-up role last fall. His time is almost up.

"I said, ‘September,'" Watkins said.

Watkins obviously made a fast recovery. He attributes that to "Good genes and a good (medical) staff."

Watkins said, "After I got hurt, I just kept thinking about getting back. I've been pushing hard for it." And he said he feels good.

Watkins played in 12 games for Bama last year. He was in on 16 tackles, including three for lost yardage. When Watkins was injured, Alabama Coach Nick Saban called him a player being counted on as a pass rusher.

During fall work, Watkins was held out of scrimmage work as a precaution. "We know what he can do," Saban said.

Watkins had his best game in his last outing of the 2010 season in the Capital One Bowl against Michigan State. He had four tackles and a sack that caused a loss of nine yards and knocked the Spartans' quarterback out of the game.

On Friday, Alabama began preparation for its first game. The Crimson Tide will host Kent State in Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 3, with kickoff at 11:21 a.m. CDT and regional television coverage on the SEC Network.

Bama's two-hour Friday practice was in shells and outdoors.

"We are anxious to get to that first game," Watkins said. "We are anxious to prove what we can do as a team, from offense, to defense, to special teams."

Watkins expects to be on special teams in 2011 as he was in 1010. He was named a Special Teams Player of the Week by the Tide coaching staff following the Ole Miss game.

Sometimes there is a question in the mind of a player coming back from injury. Will he be able to cut? What about the first hit?

Watkins said no problem. "I've done all that in practice," he said.

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