Injuries Are A Concern

Football is a game of contact, played by big, strong men. It's no surprise that injuries are a part of football. But that doesn't make it any easier for Alabama, a team short in numbers that is trying to prepare for the 2004 season.

Alabama Coach Mike Shula said following Thursday morning's Crimson Tide practice, "I'm concerned about injuries, but we have work to do. We coaches have to be as smart as we can about it, but we have to continue with our plan."

There were a couple of defensive linemen added to the injury list Thursday as starting senior defensive end Todd Bates and back-up freshman defensive tackle Justin Britt were hurt. Shula said that Bates suffered a "stinger" a few days ago and that he had aggravated that, while Britt had suffered a bruised shoulder.

"I think they're going to be all right," Shula said. "Hopefully we'll have them back in a few days."

One of the more troubling injuries is that of strong safety Charlie Peprah, who moved from cornerback to strong safety in the spring. He has missed several days and Shula said it was important that Peprah get back to work as quickly as possible to acclimate himself to the new position. Safety Roman Harper was injured Thursday. Jeffrey Dukes, a sophomore transfer from junior college, is getting work at both cornerback and safety. "He's doing better," Shula said. "He had a good interception yesterday. He's reacting better. But he still has a lot to do."

Wide receiver Antonio Carter, who hasn't practiced this fall (or last fall or the last two springs, for that matter), is not going to be on the practice field any time soon. "A.C. Carter is being re-evaluated," Shula said. Carter, a rare sixth-year senior, has been out the past two years because of complications involving a leg injury. Shula said that original injury seems to be progressing well, but there are "residual effects." One such effect is a muscle problem, and Carter is wearing a protective boot for the next 10 days.

Although it seems as though there have been a lot of injuries in the pre-season, particularly considering there has been only one scrimmage and there are two more scrimmage days scheduled, most of the injuries have been minor with almost every player expected to return for the first game or soon thereafter. It is possible that Bama's low number of scholarshipped players accentuates the attention to injuries.

It was pointed out that many of the injuries are to younger players and to back-up players. Shula agreed with that and said it probably wasn't an accident. But, he added, "You never know when someone is going to be injured and injuries can happen to anyone." Nevertheless, he said the team is in better shape than it was at this time last year. "We're still not in playing shape, though," he said.

Alabama returns to the practice field Friday for one practice. Bama will have another open-to-the-public scrimmage at 3:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide is working towards a season-opening game on September 4, when Alabama will host Utah State at 6 p.m. CDT.

Shula said that because the team is a little short, it was likely that the scrimmage would be shorter than usual. "We don't want to hang a starting offensive lineman out there for 80 plays or something," he said.

Back-up center Travis West is missing some work with soreness. West had spring surgery to repair a muscle tear. "We have to be careful about working him too much," Shula said. As he usually does, Shula pointed out that an injury to one player is an opportunity for another. Taylor Britt is the beneficiary of West's inactivity. Britt, a back-up guard, "is going to get a lot of reps in the next couple of days," Shula said.

Shula said, "Our effort was good. It was slow to start, but it picked up at the end. We're still not there, where we need to understand the urgency to do things right all the time, especially when we're tired. We've got to get mentally tougher that way."

The practice consisted of more situational drills in addition to conditioning. Practice was concluded with a kicking drill where Brian Bostick was given four kicks and made three, missing a 49-yard try at the end. The team then had to run one sprint as a result of the missed field goal. "We practiced a couple more situations and had some conditioning with our kick where we put him under the gun a little," said Shula.

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