One of the mild curiosities of Alabama spring football practice is the occurrence in several of the past few seasons of the Crimson Tide having one day of spring practice before spring break, and then continuing with the 14 remaining practices (including the A-Day Game) after spring break.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban’s explanation is simple, and it comes into play this week. If Easter falls during spring practice, Saban wants his players to have the opportunity to go home and be with family on that weekend. Thus, Bama does not have a practice on the Saturday before Easter.
That means this week. Alabama returned to practice Monday and will have drills Wednesday and Friday. The rest of the spring, through the A-Day Game on April 16 that concludes spring training, the Tide will have scrimmages on April 2 and April 9.
Following Monday’s practice in helmets and shorts, Saban said, "Everybody made it back from spring break. We had a good practice. We had more guys doing it right today than we had the practice before, so we made progress.”
Saban doesn’t mandate a routine for his players when they are on spring break, but he makes a suggestion that they work out four times during the nine days they are away from the practice field.
"We tell players when they go on spring break that we would like for you to work out four times. You're going to be out of here for what amounts to eight or nine days, and we would like for you to work out four times. And
“We'll know the players who worked out four times and did not dissipate in terms of gaining weight and who took care of themselves, because you won't be able to respond in practice like you want to if you don't do those things,” Saban said. “Now, we don't call and make sure they do it. We don't have a postcard that they fill out. We can't make them do it, so we encourage them to do it.
“The one thing I've been really pleased about with our players here is when we encourage them to do things, they usually respond in a very positive way and usually buy into it. I didn't ask anyone how much they worked out over spring (break), but it's a real indicator of how important football is to them, and how important that is for them to be a good player. If a guy just went and did nothing for the whole time, he's not very committed to improving himself and having a significant role on the team. I think it tells you a lot about a player's competitive character, how important football is to them, and how important the team is to them in how he does those things."
A few Alabama players were available to media following practice. Tight end O.J. Howard said that he and quarterback David Cornwell went to Texas to work out together. “It was pretty fun,” Howard said. “It was kind of hard, but it was worth it.”
He said he and Cornwell had talked about going together to “run some routes and stuff. Just stay in shape, basically. It’s important. We both want to win for the team so whenever you’ve got a bunch of guys on the team who are dedicated like that it’s going to help the team in the long run.”
Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson said that he worked out “a couple of times. Maybe three.” But he said he came back in good shape and was anxious to get back on the practice field.
Linebacker Reuben Foster went to Miami for spring break to “work out and study.” He said he worked on agility drills, but not on weights.
Although Saban was speaking to reporters Monday evening, one had the feeling he was sending a message to his players. He said, "Spring practice is something you do to make progress so that you're ready for the season. We want to have a great spring practice. We had a very good off-season program so that we're ready for the opener. It's a process that every team has to go through and I think it's something that you need to move forward in, not only in terms of learning your position, which is the technique, fundamentals, what to do, how to do it, why it's important to do it that way, but also in things like effort, discipline to finish plays, mental toughness to be able to sustain and focus when things don't go right.
"All these things require every player taking ownership for how he makes progress to become a complete player in spring. Then everybody has to assess: ‘Are you a liability or an asset in this process for yourself and for your teammates?’ So you can't be casual in the way you approach spring practice.
“I don't care how good of a player you are, I don't care what you've done in the past, I don't care about how many games we've won, it doesn't really matter. There's a standard that we need to do it to and everybody needs to buy into that standard.
“Spring practice is like a project. It's like building a new house. We're building a new team. It's got a beginning. There's a process that you have to do to build that, and then spring practice will end and then we'll have another phase when the summer comes. So where will you take yourself to become a complete player is what I ask the players. ‘What kind of effort and toughness, what kind of mental energy and intensity are you going to have, what kind of sense of urgency are you going to have to do it right now?’ And that's going to help you become a smart, intelligent player, which is going to help us be a better team. So that's really what we're focused on and what we're trying to do.”