Saban comments on decision to play

With the decision made for Saturday's LSU-Auburn game to take place as scheduled, Nick Saban continued preparations with a two-hour practice Wednesday afternoon. It was only shortly before the practice began that the Tigers found out that they would be playing a game just four days after a terrorist attack on the United States.

LSU chancellor Mark Emmert and athletics director Skip Bertman announced at 3 p.m. Wednesday that Southeastern Conference commissioner Roy Kramer gave the go-ahead to the individual institutions in the league to decide on their own whether to play games as scheduled. Word was sent to Saban, who gathered his team around him just after they had completed their stretching routine.

"This is probably as catastrophic a tragedy that's happened in my lifetime," Saban told reporters after the practice, "and we're really sorry for all who are affected by it. I know our team feels the same way."

Saban reflected on the previous tragedies that have occurred in his lifetime, recalling that he was in the basement of Monongah (W. Va.) Junior High when he learned that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. And as a freshman at Kent State, he recalls hearing shots fired while he was in a cafeteria and going to a parking lot where he saw the 13 bodies of students who had been fired upon by the National Guard.

Saban said it wasn't until late Tuesday that he was able to sit in front of a television at his home and absorb the extent of the terrorist actions in New York and Washington D.C.

"Until I got home last night about 10:30, I wasn't aware of the magnitude of what had happened," he said. "I knew it was a tremendous tragedy, but I didn't have time to sit down and watch TV to find out. I heard from other people what happened, and it certainly had an effect on trying to focus on the work."

The practice session held on the day of the tragedy went well, according to Saban, who said the players probably needed the distraction of football. But with the possibility of postponing the game still existing on Wednesday, he said it would have been hard to expect another good practice.

"I felt like today it was a distraction because there were a lot of questions in the players' minds as to whether we would play the game or not," Saban said. "So to get the news before practice started that we were going to play the game probably was helpful to them. I think it would have been tough to practice another day not knowing whether they'd play or not."

As to whether it is best to play the game so soon after the terrorist attacks, Saban deferred to the judgment of local and national authorities, who he trusted with the aspects of safety and security. Saban said playing the Auburn game will allow his players and fans a chance to resume a normal routine.

"When you change your lifestyle, when you don't go about your business the way you're supposed to, (terrorists) are making you change your lifestyle, and they're actually winning," he said.

Saban said he didn't discuss the events of Tuesday or the status of the Auburn game with any of his players until Wednesday afternoon when he met with team captains Rohan Davey, Trev Faulk and Robert Royal. He told them he would soon be learning about whether the game would be played and wanted to know if the captains thought he should address the team. The players told Saban he should.

Junior wide receiver Josh Reed talked with reporters on Wednesday and said he put in a call to his mother in Rayne on Tuesday to discuss the terrorist' actions and particularly the possibility of United States retaliation against the perpetrators. Reed brother, Norbert, serves in the U.S. Army and is currently stationed in Korea.

"I guess it put a little fear in everybody," Reed said. "It just happened so suddenly. You really feel for everybody who's lost someone. Our heart goes out to them."

Royal told reporters that players have been focusing on the practice since Monday and were pleased to learn that they would be preparing for a game on Saturday. He said, if the decision to play were left up to him, he would agree to do so if given assurances about the safety of players and fans.

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