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Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson struggled with an ankle injury toward the end of the regular season.
AP photo
Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson struggled with an ankle injury toward the end of the regular season.

Healing all those injuries
Tide welcomes time away from playing games ...

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — When asked about the last time he felt completely healthy, Keith Brown looked up in the air pensively, then let out a bit of a chuckle and said, "The beginning of the season."

Following 12 games in 12 weeks, a 38-day break has come as a welcome change for the Crimson Tide. Alabama hasn't played since falling to Auburn on Nov. 18 and won't play again until facing Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 28.

Before the Tide's game with Auburn, Alabama had players dropping left and right because injuries.

Brown had nursed a knee injury since the Tide played Ole Miss on Oct. 15.

Offensive lineman B.J. Stabler missed significant time because of a bad knee. Quarterback John Parker Wilson battled a sprained ankle, and wide receiver DJ Hall struggled with a bruised shoulder.

In addition, running back Jimmy Johns sprained his ankle, and cornerback Rashad Johnson dealt with a sprained knee and sprained ankle.

With the time away from games, Alabama can finally unveil the team it wanted all along.

"If you play with guys healthy, you know what you can do," Hall said. "We were kind of worn out."

Next season, Alabama will not play 12 games in 12 weeks. It will have an open date between its games against Tennessee on Oct. 20 and LSU on Nov. 3.

Of the other 11 Southeastern Conference teams, only Auburn and Vanderbilt endured a season without an open week this year.

Although the future of interim head coach Joe Kines remains uncertain, he said that Alabama should look closely at playing such a full slate in the future.

According to Kines, he spoke with plenty of other coaches of teams with open dates, and they said that their teams made it through the season with fewer injuries.

"We'll all take a different look next year and modify things earlier in the season," Kines said. "Once you hit that wall, it's tough to push on without a break.

"But you have to try to push that point as far down the road as you can."

Kines has geared his practices toward making sure Alabama is rested and ready to go for its bowl game.

Several players have said that practices are more intense, concentrated and shorter.

"We have three hours worth of work, but we get it done in an hour and a half," fullback Le'Ron McClain said. "We come out of the huddle fast. He is really hyped up about us and getting us hyped up every day."

During the time off, according to McClain, he just sat around and relaxed.

McClain remained relatively healthy all season, but the fatigue had taken a toll on him like his teammates.

When he came back to the practice field he noticed something different.

"My legs were back!" McClain joked. "Before the end of the season, they were getting kind of heavy at times."

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