Alabama Football Players Express Support for Daily COVID-19 Testing
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — During his weekly Wednesday press conference, Alabama football coach Nick Saban announced that his players now undergo daily testing for COVID-19, a process that the team previously was conducting three times weekly.
When the SEC announced its testing protocols for the 2020 season back in early August, mandatory biweekly testing was a part of the conference's requirements during game week's. The Crimson Tide immediately one-upped the conference's regulations, however, having players tested three times a week instead of just two.
On Thursday afternoon, Alabama sophomore defensive lineman D.J. Dale and redshirt-senior offensive lineman Landon Dickerson took to the podium for the media via Zoom. During both of their interview sessions, the question of daily testing was mentioned.
For Dale, his answer was short and sweet — a typical answer from a man of few words in support of Saban and the daily coronavirus testing.
"I feel like that’s the best thing for our team right now," Dale said. "[Saban]’s doing everything he can to make sure everybody’s [not] positive and it’s giving us the confidence to be able to practice around each other, knowing that everybody’s not positive."
Across the SEC, many programs have begun to report a plethora of cases, causing concern among some fanbases as to which players will be available for the start of the season.
On Wednesday evening not five minutes before Saban took to his own press conference, Missouri head coach Eli Drinkwitz announced that 12 of his players will be sitting out in their opening-weekend matchup against the Crimson Tide due to the Tigers players either contracting the virus or having had exposure to someone who had tested positive.
While Drinkwitz sitting his 12 players is taking the proper precautions, the issue of the virus among players was pushed to the forefront of news due to LSU coach Ed Orgeron.
In a third coaches' press conference on Wednesday, Orgeron revealed that most of his players had already contracted the virus, causing concern for the other Tigers team in the SEC.
"I think, not all of our players, but most of our players have caught it," Orgeron said during his digital press conference."
Orgeron added a strangely hopeful statement following the reveal.
"I think, hopefully, that once you catch it, you don't get it again," Orgeron said. "I'm not a doctor. I think they have that 90-day window, so most of the players that have caught it, we do feel like they'll be eligible for games.
"So we look at the players that have caught it and say, 'OK these guys should be eligible.' We look at the players who haven't caught it; we talk to them about being very, very careful so they're eligible for games. But we know that the players that haven't caught it, we have to have some backups in their position ready in case they catch it. So we're looking at our roster in that manner."
Due to his emphasis on eligibility rather than player health, Orgeron's comments stirred up a little bit of controversy. While putting football first is part of the gritty head coach's job, many fans and the media alike believed that Orgeron putting a high degree of emphasis on the eligibility of the players rather than their wellbeing was a cause of concern.
Travel over to Tuscaloosa from Baton Rouge, though, and you'll find a completely different emphasis. While there is no doubt that Saban puts eligibility as a large priority in keeping his player's healthy, publicly he has only promoted player health and safety as the main goal of daily testing.
"One of the things that we've done here internally that I'll share with you is we are doing daily testing with our players," Saban said on Wednesday. "We just thought that it gives the players a better peace of mind. It's the best thing for the players — it's the best thing for the program. We have the capabilities and resources to do it so we're happy to do it."
Saban's positive attitude and approach to his players from a health approach rather than eligibility approach has definitely rubbed off on his program. Following Dale during Thursday's player availability, Dickerson echoed both Dale and Saban's statements on daily testing.
Dickerson placed an emphasis on maintaining his team's eligibility along with player safety, which is to be expected from the perspective of a redshirt-senior player entering his final season of college football.
"Testing every day just gives everyone here peace of mind that the people you're going to be around aren't positive and you don't have a chance of spreading it, you know, giving it to everyone else," Dickerson said. "We're at that point now where if one guy gets it, you might miss a game or have some people sitting out and missing a lot of time. So it's good to know now that we're testing every day, and we can be safe with who all is here."
Currently, Alabama is the only SEC school known to be conducting daily coronavirus testing. However, one can expect other schools to begin undergoing the same processes now that the Crimson Tide has shown where its own priorities are.
Alabama has not had any positive tests openly revealed since July. While there have most definitely been players that have contracted the virus since the team's return to campus, no official numbers have been released to the public. The Crimson Tide has done so while citing the players' best interest and in order to maintain a sense of privacy for them.
That being said, as of right now it is unknown if Alabama will have any players sitting out against Missouri. When asked about his thoughts concerning Missouri and its 12 players sitting out for the season opener on Sept. 26, Saban kept his own team's numbers close to his chest.
"I'm sure when we get into game week and we figure out exactly who can and who can't we'll kind of let you know but we don't really — I could give you a number but I don't know what 12 players Missouri has out so I don't know how that affects what we do," Saban said. "We want to certainly focus on what we need to do to play well in the game and get the players who are capable of playing and ready to play."