Saban Discusses Steen, Kiffin

The Alabama football team went back to practice Tuesday and Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban addressed a number of issues, including the loss of starting right guard Anthony Steen and the appearance of controversial Lane Kiffin in Tuscaloosa to consult with the Crimson Tide staff.

Alabama will practice in Tuscaloosa through early next week, break for Christmas, and then go to New Orleans to complee preparations for the Sugar Bowl. Bama will meet Oklahoma on January 2 in the Sugar Bowl.

Saban said, "Anthony Steen had his shoulder operated on. He's played probably the second half of the season with some shoulder problems. They got progressively worse. We decided to have Doc MRI it. He thought that it would not be good that Anthony continue to play so we went ahead and got fixed."

There was some good injury news.

Saban said safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, who had arthroscopic surgery on his knee following the final game of the regular season, was back at practice. "He's okay and ready to go," Saban said.

He also said that defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson and safety Nick Perry, who were injured early in the season, were back in drills, but said it is the "next step in their rehabilitation. They're not really playing. They're not really doing football stuff and they're not going to play in this game. They're just out there in black jerseys so they can do football-related type stuff, which is the next part of their rehab."

As for Lane Kiffin, the former coach at Tennessee and Southern Cal (who was fired early in the season at USC) being in Tuscaloosa, Saban said, "I can't believe that there's any reaction to it. Just about every year, we have coaches come in and do what we call sort of professional development type things. We exchange ideas. Oklahoma's staff has been here before, when we had bowl practice. Tom Moore, who is a longtime coordinator in the NFL, has been here on several occasions to just visit with our coaches, give us new ideas, brainstorm with us. To do it, though, the person can't be coaching any place right now or they've got other things to do. There's only a few people out there that you have an opportunity to do it.

"Lane is a really good offensive coach, and I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for him, just to come in and brainstorm a little bit just some professional ideas with our guys, I think, is a real positive thing. And I don't know why there's any reaction to it. I'm really quite surprised."

Saban said it was good to get back on the practice field. He said, "I think the idea of the players getting back and kind of recommitting themselves to what has made this team good in the past and some of the things that we sort of let diminish a little bit throughout this season. Whether it's discipline, attention to detail, effort to finish.

"Things that are really important to be able to compete at the highest level

"In some cases, we need to build on the good habits that we have. In other cases, we need to change habits so that we can do those things.

"Finishing plays. Finishing blocks. Finishing tackles. That's probably the No. 1 word that we're out there coaching fundamentals on. It was a good first practice for us.

"We obviously have a long way to go to get back in shape. The focus on these first four practices that we have are more fundamental type practices, camp-type practices, not really working a lot against any opponent or anything like that. Just trying to get our team back in shape fundamentally so that we can build on and get ready to install our game plan for this team down the road."

As for the bowl game against Oklahoma, Saban said, "I think we have a great opportunity against a really good team to prove that we are a good fotoball team. I think the seniors here have done such a great job it would really be a shame if our entire team didn't try to finish this season the right way.

"For next year's guys, they have a great opportunity to make an impression for their future as well as for our team's future. A lot to play for here."

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