Battered but not finished

When Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle was helped to the sideline Saturday night, his left arm dangling loosely at his side, Bryant-Denny Stadium held its breath. <br><br>"(Arkansas safety Tony) Bua about knocked my head off," Croyle recalled. "The rest was history."

Trailing at the time 10-7 with the halftime clock running out, Alabama faced a second and 10 from his own 33 yardline. Spotting no one open, Croyle tucked the ball under his arm, looking for the first-down marker.

"I gave some thought to ‘Am I going to keep going straight or am I going to go sideways?'" he said. "For some reason I went sideways. I might have had a better chance going straight."

So far this season Croyle has thrown for 1,076 yards. If he keeps up that pace he'll finish with 3,497 yards on the year. (Barry Fikes photo)

For a brief moment Croyle appeared to have running room, but then what seemed like the entire Razorback defense arrived, slamming him to the turf.

"(The injury) got me on the initial hit," Croyle said. "I didn't even realize the other guys hit me. I thought it was an open-field tackle. When (my shoulder) went out, I wasn't really worried about getting hit in the head or anything. The ground didn't do anything. It was the initial first hit."

The Tide trainers quickly hustled Croyle to the locker room, and backup Spencer Pennington came into the game. Three successful passes, four incompletions and a roughing-the-passer penalty later, Brian Bostick banged through a 48-yard field goal to even the score.

"I found out it was tied when the guys came in at halftime," Croyle said. "That was a great job by Spence. He had been standing on the sideline all game. He was cold, but he came in and did a great job. He made a couple of throws. He stood in there and took the pressure and delivered when he had to."

Last year Croyle was Bama's reserve quarterback, so he knows very well how difficult it is coming into the game cold. "Getting any points right there was a big plus for us," Croyle said. "Spencer came in cold and hit his first pass. It was a pressure situation. He did an excellent job."

Perhaps surprisingly, Croyle says there wasn't a lot of locker-room discussion about whether he'd play in the second half. "There really wasn't a conversation. It was all just how I felt, and there wasn't any way I wasn't going to go back out there and play.

"If it's up to me, I'm there no matter what."

Known as a passer, Croyle is also effective scrambling.

Indeed, Croyle clearly can play with the injury. In the second half Saturday night he was 5-of-12 passing for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

Asked if the fact that Croyle played the second half versus Arkansas with an injured shoulder would indicate that he'd play versus Georgia as well, Tide Head Coach Mike Shula acknowledged it probably did. "It's not automatic, but it's fairly close to it," Shula said. "A lot of that is because it's Brodie. He's extremely tough. We're always talking with the doctors and trainers to make sure he can't hurt it worse."

"We're planning on me playing right now," Croyle said of the Georgia game. "If there is any way possible I can be on that field, I'll be there."

So long as the left shoulder can be protected adequately by a brace, it's actually not that unusual for a right-handed QB to continue playing. "I've been around guys that have had an injury similar to that," Shula said. "Jay Fiedler had it my first year back (with the Miami Dolphins). He played the whole last five games that season with that injury. He took us to the playoffs and won a playoff game."

Sunday evening Croyle was dressed in street clothes, sporting a sling on his left arm. But he downplayed the problem. "This is more of a precaution to keep the joint settled for a couple of days," Croyle said. "I'm planning on being out there by at least Wednesday. Hopefully everything works out."

One reason for Croyle's optimism is that he's done it before. He actually injured the left shoulder in Bama's first game this year. He finished that South Florida game, leading the Tide to a convincing win. And Croyle has played with the problem ever since.

He explained,, "My shoulder had gone out two or three times earlier in a season, but it had gone out in a different way. (Saturday) was the first time it stayed out (of joint). The other times it slipped out and went right back in. That was definitely a different feeling. The South Florida game was the first time. It went out again in the Oklahoma game and had been good the last couple of weeks.

"I've got a loose joint, and it just hasn't had time to heal."

At halftime Croyle was fitted with a different brace, which he wore the rest of the game. "It limits you a little bit," Croyle said. "I'm just going to have to wear it all week. It's a new brace. Some of the handoffs with my left hand I'm going to have to get there sooner, but we're not going to expect anything drastic."

Will it affect his throwing motion?

Shown working out in the weight room, Croyle isn't the biggest quarterback in the SEC, but no one doubts his courage.

"Not really," he replied. "If anything it might shorten it a little bit, but I can get used to it this week of practice."

Listed at 201 pounds on the team roster, Croyle is hardly the biggest quarterback out there. But despite his size and the injury, he hasn't hesitated to run when necessary.

"In some situations you think about (the injury)," Croyle acknowledged. "When you're in the open field, and you've already got the first down maybe you take the chance to slide. But it depends on the situation on that particular play.

"I didn't think about it on the quarterback sneak in overtime."

A college athlete's career is finite, and Croyle is determined to make the most of his chances. "It's a tough game," he said. "You fight for every yard you get. You don't think about it. You just lower your head and go."

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