The Return of Rat Poison: Nick Saban Harps on Team Apathy Heading into Mercer

The Alabama head coach was not happy with the mindset and leadership he's seen among his players since the team's victory over Miami last weekend.
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama football coach Nick Saban was not a happy camper at the start of his weekly press conference on Wednesday evening. After a dominating 44-13 victory over the then-No. 14 Miami Hurricanes last Saturday in the Crimson Tide's season opener, Saban believes that his team is not in the proper mindset heading into this weekend's game against Mercer.

In fact, Saban himself started the press conference by reminding everyone present of where his term 'rat poison' originated from, a metaphor often used by Saban to describe outside influences via the media or other sources that overdevelop a player's confidence.

"I think, several years ago it was the sixth or seventh game of the year, we just beat Texas A&M and people started talking about our team and I had to bring everyone’s attention to, what I refer to as ‘rat poison,'" Saban said. "So now we've basically played one half of one game. We went ahead 27 to nothing in the game and then it was basically 17-16 after that with two stops inside the 5-yard line. So we didn’t maintain our intensity in the game. We were affected by the scoreboard. So we haven’t proven we can play for 60 minutes.”

While the media hasn't been able to attend practices this season, it's fairly safe to assume that the players' mindsets in their approach have not been up to Saban's standards. Saban is a stark advocate against complaining — the 'Poor Mes', as he likes to call them — and an apathetic attitude.

According to Saban, his players have been making a lot of excuses this week on top of having an overconfident mindset.

“Then we come out Monday not ready to practice, I guess because of respect we have for the opponent,” Saban said. “I don’t really know that or maybe it’s what they read on social media or in the media or whatever after one half of a game this season.

“Then it was hot [on Tuesday] so we have every external factor in the world that’s affecting our ability to maintain intensity and play the way we need to practice to improve. The scoreboard affects us. Who we’re playing affects us. The heat affects us. The media and what you guys write every day affect us. So to me, we’ve got to prove that we could play and maintain intensity for 60 minutes in the game.”

Leadership is a quality that Saban heavily encourages. Not just in himself, but in his players as well. Over the course of fall camp, Saban reiterated the importance of leadership in his program, which lost a lot of its key veterans to the NFL last season.

When asked about the team leadership's response to the poor mindset of the players following this week's practices, Saban said that leadership in any capacity is what he needs to see displayed by his upperclassmen.

"I want to see do we have leadership?" Saban said. "Do people care enough to understand what we have to do to maintain our intensity for 60 minutes in the game, to improve as a team, to do the things that we need to do to improve as a team? Do we have the depth that we need to have?

"You know, we’ve got some guys that are doing the right things and they’re trying to set a good example and they’re trying to pull other guys along. But we also have other guys that need to pick it up and understand what it takes to practice, what it takes to prepare."

Whether the players have been affected by 'rat poison' or other means, Saban is clearly not happy with the regression of his Crimson Tide these past few days.

Alabama has Thursday and Friday to finish preparations for Mercer, which will face the Crimson Tide inside Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday (3 p.m. CT, SEC Network).