McCarron Begins Last Tide Spring

There are 24 ribs in the human body, 12 on each side. Four of those (two on each side) are not connected to the sternum. They are called floaters. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron could tell you about having floaters that sometimes seemed to be on a cruise while he was trying to play football. His ribs were popping out of place.

When Alabama started spring practice Saturday, it did so with a quarterback who has led the Crimson Tide to back-to-back national championships. Upcoming senior A.J. McCarron is looking forward to it.

Although it has been only a bit over two months since the Crimson Tide defeated Notre Dame, 42-14, to win the BCS National Championship, McCarron said the time off had been good. "It helps getting a break," he said.

Although McCarron tried to downplay his injury situation, he had an interesting development during the 2012 season.

"Three ribs kept popping out of place," he said. "We put two back in, but my top one up there just kept coming in and out. It would just pop in and out when I'd throw.

"It was just a lot of rehab. I have to give thanks to my training staff. They are excellent."

McCarron said, "It was painful, but everybody plays through injuries. That's part of being in the SEC. Week in and week out, you're going to get beat up. Everybody plays through them. It's just a normal injury."

Well, some would question whether ribs popping out is a "normal" injury.

" I mean, you're just going to get hit weird sometimes," McCarron explained. "I didn't even get hit bad. I just landed weird. It was almost the same type of scenario that happened the year before, when I fell forward on a run against Arkansas and dislocated my shoulder. So I just fell awkward. Sometimes, that's just how it goes."

McCarron, 6-4, 210, has spent time in the weight room to add mass and muscle. "I've been working hard," he said. "I had a really good off-season.

"I'm stronger. It's kind of hard to gain weight when we're running so much (although he admitted he spent more time in the weight room than running), but I'm definitely a lot stronger."

Want proof? In the off-season he had a 600-pound squat. "When I got here, I probably couldn't squat 225," McCarron said. "To do 600 with Coach (Scott) Cochran shows what kind of strength coach he is and how much he's helped me in the weight room. He's made me work hard and it has paid off."

McCarron is coming off an excellent year. Although Alabama had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Eddie Lacy (now headed to the NFL) and T.J. Yeldon (back for his sophomore season), McCarron had an exceptional pass efficiency rating of 175.28 as he completed 211 of 314 pass attempts (67.2 per cent) for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns with only three interceptions.

He admits that he feels old. "I feel like I've been here 15 years," he said.

Behind him are a half dozen or so quarterbacks and they will be trying to learn from McCarron.

"It's fun to sit back and watch the younger guys compete, watch them grow," McCarron said.

He has gone through that process himself, watching his predecessor Greg McElroy. McCarron said, "Even if Greg didn't teach me everything, I still tried to watch everything and how he did it."

McCarron pointed out that "You still have to worry about your own job, so you can't be teaching the whoe time." He also noted that he and the other quarterbacks, particularly three newcomers this spring (Cooper Bateman, Parker McLeod, and Luke Del Rio), haven't been around each other much.

Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said that McCarron can do a lot to help young quarterbacks "with their development by spending a little time with them in terms of understanding. Any time you've been through something and you have experience learning and growing with something, you can benefit somebody else who's trying to learn and grow through it based on the experience that you have."

McCarron said he doesn't set individual goals. "I'm here to win," he said. "I want to win as a team. I want to win national championships. I just go out every day and try to play to the best of my ability, do my job, do what coach asks me to do."

Part of that job is being a leader, Saban said. "AJ's leadership is critical to our team," said the coach. "AJ has the capabilities of being a good leader and he has to assert himself as that and impact and affect other peope by the example that he sets. I think the players like AJ, I think they respect AJ, and I think the more he does things the right way, the more he's going to be able to affect other people. He's always done a good job of that and I've been pleased with that in the past. I can't see any reason why it wouldn't be a real positive for him in the future."

Alabama continues spring practice with workouts Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before The University's spring break. Practices resume April 1 and conclude with the A-Day Game April 20.

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