This Is Spring Football?

As I stood in a crowd of reporters talking with Mike Shula following Thursday's second spring football practice of 2005, a gust of wind blew up, ruffling my hair and sending a cold chill down my back and through my legs.

This, I thought to myself, is spring football?

In name only.

The trusty calendar says this is late February.

The sports calendar says this is the heart of basketball season.

My legs – and frozen hands – say this is spring football, and you'd better deal with it as best you can.

I just wish we didn't have to.

Spring football is all fine and well, but even in here in comparatively warm Alabama, it is taking place far too early for my tastes.

When the average person thinks of spring, thoughts of warm breezes, green grass and blooming flowers fill the mind.

This is what February brings: cold rain, plummeting temperatures as the sun falls in the afternoon sky and, at times, punishing, chilly gusts of wind. Sure, it's football weather. But is it spring football weather?

Of course not.

Shula has his reasons for holding spring practice early, the most prominent of which are continuity and consistency.

Alabama's season ended less than two months ago, and players are in the heart of winter workouts, the foundation of any successful off-season conditioning program.

Shula also wants spring practice – which culminates with the annual A-Day game on March 19 – to end before spring break begins. Dividing practice, in his opinion, seriously devalues spring drills because of a natural drop in intensity that comes with spring break's relaxation.

"There was talk about (moving practice later), but we set our schedules early here because there are a lot of people depending on our schedule," Shula said earlier this month. "It was something that we knew we liked last year so we decided to go ahead and do it again this year. We'll evaluate it at the end of this year with all things considered. One of the pluses is getting all done in four straight weeks before spring break. I know a lot of people are very motivated to get that done. It would be too hard for us to get it done after spring break, just because that would last too far into April."

And my question is: what's wrong with that?

Alabama is a beat-up football team.

Junior Kenneth Darby – the team's leading returning rusher – has been hampered by a hairline fracture of his pelvis, and isn't practicing at all right now. He'll undergo further evaluation next week.

Starting quarterback Brodie Croyle is still limited after September surgery to repair a torn right anterior cruciate ligament; he can participate in seven-on-seven drills, but can't work in "live" action yet.

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman B.J. Stabler, a top candidate at right guard, will miss several weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery. Sophomore defensive tackle Justin Britt will be limited after surgery on both ankles to remove excess bone in the back of the joint. And junior defensive tackle Jeremy Clark, a returning starter, will likely be less than 100 percent after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

All of them, save possibly Darby, would be healthier if practice was delayed. That's only one of several reasons why the Tide should practice after spring break.

Working after spring break would also lessen the conflict with basketball, a concept any of you who tried squeezing into Coleman Coliseum's construction-infested parking lot for Saturday's hoops showdown with Kentucky can appreciate.

Mark Gottfried has not made any public comments or shared any displeasure about sharing what could be another great NCAA Tournament run with spring football, but he can't be happy about it.

Unless the NCAA assigns Alabama to a Friday/Sunday bracket, A-Day will likely conflict with a Crimson Tide NCAA Tournament game for the second consecutive year.

Last season, fans were forced to choose: watch A-Day at Bryant-Denny Stadium, or check out the Tide's second-round matchup with No.1 Stanford?

Either way, fans lost: they missed the football game, or one of Alabama's most monumental hoops upsets of all time.

In this state, football has always been king and probably always will be. But Gottfried has built the Tide into a hoops monster, one that deserves its share of attention.

It's just another reason why spring football should wait until, well, spring.

If everyone came to their senses, maybe I could actually leave my coat at home next year.

Everyone's extremities would appreciate that.

BamaMag Top Stories