When Alabama Coach Nick Saban recently discussed his thoughts about players fighting in practice, he probably never dreamed that Crimson Tide teammates would be getting into it with one another during a game – particularly a game in which Bama was enjoying a lopsided 52-6 win over Southern Cal.
But there is was on the Alabama sideline in Arlington, Texas, Saturday night in the first game of the 2016 season. Number one ranked Alabama was in control of the game, but sophomore safety Ronnie Harrison was not in control of his emotions. As a result, he was having words. Not with one of the Trojans, but with his fellow safety, senior Eddie Jackson.
In speaking of fighting, Saban had said, “I think it’s really important that players respect other players on the team -- have a respect for what that player’s trying to do to be successful.”
This week, Saban reiterated, “We have a rule where our players can't talk to the other players on the field.”
One might think a Saban rule would be the end of it for Alabama players.
Saban had explained earlier, “When people talk, sometimes they lose focus on what they’re supposed to be doing. The other part of that is when people talk they sometimes make other people emotional – and when you get emotional I think you make emotional decisions, which can lead to loss of control.”
As Alabama began to take control in a game of traditional powers, Saban said, “There was a lot of trash talking going on on the other side. That's okay. That's their choice. They can do whatever they want. I'm not being critical of that.”
As Saban had predicted, there was a reaction. “Ronnie let it emotionally get to him that these other guys were talking,” Saban said. “So he said something, and Eddie said 'Hey man, this is not what we do. We don't talk to the other team.' And Ronnie got all upset, not necessarily at Eddie, he was just emotionally upset about the trash talking and Eddie saying something to him.
“These two guys have a lot of respect for each other. They're really good friends. I think the lesson to be learned is that when you have a teammate who is caring about you and trying to help you, the response should be 'Thank you,' not 'Screw you.' That's basically the lesson that should be learned from the guys. I think sometimes when players get emotional, that's very difficult to do.
“Ronnie Harrison is a fine young man, it's totally out of character for him, he's apologized for it and is very sorry for it and I don't think that'll ever be an issue again."
Fellow defensive back Marlon Humphrey, who had one of the hardest hits in the game with an early sack, and who also had a big play when he grabbed a deflected USC pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown, is worth listening to.
Humphrey said, “You make a big play, speaking with your pads always speaks better.”