The turf may or may not have contributed to a knee injury suffered by defensive back Keron Gordon, who has a "slight sprain or strain of his MCL" according to Saban The training staff has not given the coach and indication of how many days Gordon will be out. Saban noted that Gordon has been learning the defense the quickest out of the newcomers in the secondary.
Gordon joined an injured list that includes starting free safety Damien James, who missed his third straight practice after suffering a mild shoulder separation Tuesday night trying to tackle Domanick Davis. James was not wearing the sling he had on for Wednesday's practice and is expected to rejoin the team next week.
"It's day-to-day with him depending on when he gets his motion and strength back," said Saban. "Whether or not this is a long-term problem depends on if it reoccurs. If it reoccurs on a more frequent basis, then I think we talking about a more serious problem."
Starting left offensive guard Stephen Peterman was also held out of Thursday's practice after sustaining a mild concussion Wednesday night. He is projected to return to practice soon and spent the day conditioning on a stationary bicycle.
Missing from practice for the second day in a row was defensive end Donovan Grayson, who met with Saban to discuss his future on the team.
"He came talk to me today and decided he really didn't want to play football anymore," Saban said. "We gave him some time to think about it, but as far as I know he's decided to quit playing football."
There was positive news from Saban regarding players who are on the mend from injuries. Through the first four days (seven sessions) of full squad practices, running back LaBrandon Toefield has shown no ill effects from the knee ligament he had surgically repaired last December. But Saban says his All-SEC senior may be reaching a point where he needs to cut back on his work.
"Toe really has done well," said Saban. "We limited his work last night and probably ought to do that to manage him so he doesn't get some overuse problems. He practiced four days in a row and did fairly well in all those practices. By about the fifth practice, he began to feel like maybe (he's) overdoing it a little bit. We started cutting back his reps a bit but he did really well today."
Saban said Toefield has taken a couple of hits, made cuts and accelerated in the open field during team drills and is still running with the same speed and authority he did before the injury.
Senior wide receiver Reggie Robinson is showing no signs of the neck injury that kept him out of action for the entire 2001 season. Robinson was able to take part in spring practice but was held out of scrimmages and contact work. Now that he's back in the mix, Saban said Robinson has resumed his familiar form.
"One of Reggie's big assets is that he's not only a senior but also a physical, tough guy," he said. "He hasn't had any problems and it doesn't seem like he's holding back at all in anything he does."
Robinson will get his first opportunity to scrimmage in over a year when the Tigers take the field Saturday in the fall's first scrimmage. Saban detailed what he'll be looking for from his 2002 squad when they begin running plays without as much support from the coaching staff.
"What you're looking for is the independence a player has in as close to a game-like situation you can put him in," he said. "If you can call it an exhibition game like…in the NFL, I think that's what we'd like to get out of it our players. Those are different things for different players and positions.
"It's game management for our quarterback, for example. For other players, it's consistency, effort and technique – especially the line positions where things can be a little bit more physical and tougher to sustain."
One player who should be able to hold his own Saturday is middle linebacker Bradie James. It will be his first scrimmage since sustaining a kidney contusion in spring practice that kept him out of action for a month.
After being moved from weak side linebacker, James is making a nearly flawless transition to his new position according to Saban.
"There's no difference in the leadership he projects, his command on the field and the way he goes about playing," he said. "If I didn't know better, I wouldn't think he was playing a different position."
Sophomore wide receiver Shyrone Carey is also playing a different position this year, having trained as a running back during his year as a partial qualifier and starred as a run-oriented quarterback in high school.
After graduating high school, Carey spent two years trying to gain his college eligibility before deciding to enroll at LSU. Saban says the challenges Carey has faced in getting back into football have been both physical and mental.
"It's difficult for any player to sit out for a year," he said. "He really sat out for more than a year. That even multiplies some of the variables and things players have to go through when they're not participating, especially when a guy's used to getting a lot of positive self gratification from what they're able to accomplish.
"I've seen him in these last practices start to gain a confidence back that I think is very reassuring to coaches that we're going to be able to find a role and channel that ability and talent into something that's going to be beneficial to this team this year. He's starting to do things that he needs to do to have the kind of success he had as a high school player."
Saban was asked whether he would be glad when LSU completes its report on an internal investigation into allegations of academic impropriety involving the school's Academic Center for Athletes. University officials will officially complete the report tomorrow and forward it to the NCAA, which will then determine if further investigation is warranted.
"I've already moved on," said Saban. "…I have no idea of what the outcome of that is going to be, but I know from an internal standpoint we've made all the corrections a long time ago that we needed to make."
As to the affect the probe has had on his team, Saban said it has never been an issue as the Tigers prepare for the 2002 season.
"The team doesn't care about this," he said. "Nobody does except you (media) guys, and all the stuff you can create from it – interest and news and all that. You've made it a lot bigger thing than it is, so have at it. Go for it. It might be disappointing that it's going to bring closure for you."