"My wrist is doing real well," Ahmad Childress told BamaMag.com earlier this month. "There is no pain in it or anything. I'm ready to get back to it."
Standing a legitimate 6-5 and weighing well over 300 pounds, Childress is an imposing physical presence. But even the strongest players can get injured under unlucky circumstances. Childress related what occurred on the play.
"I watched the video tape, so I know what happened. I was going in for the tackle, and my wrist was in an awkward position with the Auburn player. When I made the tackle, as I was falling to the ground, my wrist was caught. I dislocated the joint. Nothing was broken. It was just dislocated."
Following standard procedure, the Tide medical staff operated and inserted two metal pins to stabilize the joint. "I took the cast off when I got back (from Christmas break) and started rehabbing," Childress related. "From now on it's just a matter of regaining the strength in my wrist. The doctors told me I'll be completely fine by sometime in February, so I'll have plenty of time to get back full speed by spring practice."
The injury kept Childress out of Bama's final game at Hawaii, but he played in all 12 previous games as a key part of the Tide rotation at defensive tackle. For the season Childress totaled 24 tackles (two behind the line of scrimmage), 10 quarterback hurries and one interception. Versus Tennessee, Childress grabbed a tipped pass out of the air and returned it for 24 yards, setting up a key Bama field goal at the start of the second half.
Childress and Anthony Bryant both performed well in reserve rolls last season, but next year they'll be counted on to start. And it'll be Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard's task to make sure they're physically up to the challenge. "Last year those two played well, but only for 20 or so snaps a game," Pollard said. "They've got to be prepared for 40 snaps next season."
Childress understands the work ahead. "The main thing I want to work on in the off season is losing weight," he said. "Just in general I want to get faster and stronger. This past year I played mostly at 325 to 330 pounds. My ideal weight would be 310 to 305."
Both Childress and Bryant are determined to prove to Tide fans that they're capable of handling the job. "Anthony and I talk all the time," Childress said. "We both have a goal this winter to lose weight and get faster and stronger. Me and him and Antwan Odom and Nautyn McKay-Loescher--we've all got big goals for next year."
Jarret Johnson, Kenny King and Kindal Moorehead--four year starters and defensive captains every one--have now graduated. But Childress has a message for worried fans. "We've got plenty of talent coming back. I think overall we've got the same amount of talent on the defensive line.
"We'll pick up where we left off."
Before leaving the Auburn game with his injured wrist, Childress totaled 234 defensive snaps for the Tide. That's an average of 19.5 per game, and he also played eight downs on special teams. "I thought my first year went well," Childress said. "We had a good season, and I know we had a good team. We had excellent leadership."
Though he had played one season of junior college football at Garden City Community College in Kansas, 2002 was Childress' first taste of Division 1A football. "Learning the defensive schemes wasn't hard at all," he related. "I think my first season went well. As a player in the SEC, it was in between. But the second half of the season, when I got in a groove, I think things went real good."
Pollard is anxious to improve Childress' strength levels this off season, but the big tackle never worried about being overpowered last year. However keeping up with the pace of major college football was another matter.
"The biggest thing I had to adjust to was the speed of the game," Childress said. "That was the main thing. I think I matched up pretty well with the physical part. You've got to get used to how fast things will be coming at you. You've got to get your mind set for it."
Childress of course was signed by the previous staff, and in the wake of their departure fans worry about the squad's morale. "It was hard for some," Childress acknowledged. "But now everybody has adjusted. Alabama is still Alabama. And the team consists of the players."
Even out-of-state athletes like Childress remain solidly committed to the Tide. "Over the holiday I talked to Dennis Alexander--we're both from Tennessee--and I talked to Derrick Pope every day," Childress recalled. "Even though Derrick is from Texas and his uncle went down there, he always said he's Alabama all the way. Derrick and I are like brothers. The thought never even came in his mind to transfer."
With new Coach Mike Price now on board and off-season workouts underway, Childress and his teammates are looking to the future. "Everybody thinks Coach Price is a pretty good guy," Childress said. "They know he can coach. I've talked to guys that have worked with him, and I trust them.
"His team last year was the Pac-10 champions, so that tells you something."