I'll be back

Without question, the Tide coaches have been extra cautious the past several games in their play calling, carefully selecting what should and should not be attempted to protect quarterback Brodie Croyle.

With backup quarterback Spencer Pennington sidelined with a shoulder problem of his own, there was simply no percentage in risking further injury to Croyle's battered left shoulder. But Sunday Pennington was again dressed out and participating in practice.

"The shoulder feels good," Pennington said after Sunday's two-hour workout. "I came out today (Sunday) and threw a lot more than I did last Thursday."

When Pennington dislocated his right shoulder several weeks ago against Georgia, at the time it was assumed he'd be out for the season. But with his doctor's permission he began throwing a week ago, and his progress continues.

Tide Head Coach Mike Shula commented Sunday on his sophomore quarterback. "Spencer got some reps, and Brandon Avalos got a few. We've got to find out about Spencer if he's going to be ready. He's obviously progressively getting better each day, but he's not 100 percent."

Backup quarterback Spencer Pennington says he'll definitely be ready for Mississippi State, but the Tide coaches remain cautious.

Understandably, Pennington was elated when the doctors told him that surgery wouldn't be required. "As far as velocity-wise, I'm throwing better," Pennington said. "I'm getting my confidence back. The pain is down, and the shoulder feels a lot better."

After playing every snap in Bama's last two games, Brodie Croyle definitely remains the starter for Saturday's game. "Brodie worked normally," Shula said after Sunday's workout. "He took maybe 75 percent of the reps. That number of reps is about normal."

But everyone knows that the wrong hit at the wrong time on Croyle's gimpy left shoulder could send him to the sideline again. Which is why Pennington's recovery is so important.

"I'm definitely planning to be ready for Mississippi State," Pennington said. "I'm going to be there. If something happens to Brodie, then I'll be ready to go in. I'm looking forward to it."

Pressed a bit on the subject, Pennington acknowledged that there has been no miraculous intervention. Separated joints simply don't heal in four weeks. His right shoulder still hurts--sometimes a lot. But he's willing to play with the pain.

"There is a difference between being hurt and being injured," Pennington explained. "I was injured, but now I'm just hurting. As long as I'm just hurting, I'll be able to play. And I'm looking forward to doing just that."

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