TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Of all the benefits a bye week offers, possibly none is better than rest for weary bodies.
The timing of the off week is best for some more than others including DeQuan Menzie (Carver), D.J. Fluker and Wesley Neighbors.
Menzie and Neighbors were limited in practice early in the week while Fluker continued to progress from the groin injury suffered against South Carolina.
Menzie also has a groin issue that kept him out of Saturday’s Tennessee win. Coach Nick Saban said he wants to limit the junior college transfer cornerback since the injury could worsen if pressed too soon. The current issue facing the Columbus native can be traced to the torn Achilles tendon he suffered during the spring, Saban said.
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“My experience with football, anytime a guy misses camp, he struggled throughout the season because you didn’t prepare yourself for the season like maybe you would if you were healthy,” Saban said. “Even though he didn’t miss camp, he missed the entire summer conditioning program because he was coming off the injury, so he never got to prepare for the season like everybody else. But we’re pleased with his effort and attitude.”
Saban is more confident in the progress Fluker has made in the two-plus weeks since getting injured at South Carolina.
“Hopefully, we can work him back to where we could be able to get him back in the fold here in the next game,” Saban said.
Alfred McCullough started in place of Fluker at right guard during the redshirt freshman’s absence.
Neighbors, a special-teams player credited with five tackles, has a sprained foot that he has played through “for a long time,” Saban said. If there was a game Saturday, he would be practicing.
Keeping it light
Another byproduct of the bye week was the casual atmosphere Crimson Tide players brought to the interview room.
Even the typically reserved Julio Jones got into the fun.
The Tide’s leading receiver became part of a two-man show with quarterback Greg McElroy, who jokingly refused to answer questions until his other half took the seat next to him.
“My lips are sealed until 8 gets in the room,” McElroy said referencing Jones’ jersey number.
William Vlachos and Trent Richardson shared a few laughs as the debate about who is faster was discussed.
After trying to run stride for stride with the speedy running back on an 85-yard touchdown reception against Mississippi, Vlachos did not make it to the media room last week to respond to Richardson’s claim that he’d need an 80-yard head start to win a 100-yard dash.
By Tuesday, he had an answer after he “was briefed on (Richardson’s) comments.”
“I think he was being a bit facetious with that comment,” Vlachos said as his challenger entered the room to laughter. “Hey, Trent.”
“How are you doing Nacho?” said a smiling Richardson, calling Vlachos by his nickname derived from the 2006 movie “Nacho Libre.”
The who-is-faster debate gained another contestant when Vlachos was asked about his quarterback.
“I’m faster than Greg,” he said. “I’m faster than Greg, no doubt. If you let me take my knee braces off, it’s not going to be close.”
Prepping for future foes
Looking down the road to the final four opponents on the Crimson Tide’s schedule, Saban said Alabama is using this bye week to look at the challenges LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia State and Auburn present.
But the coach didn’t mention any names or schools as targets for the team’s advance focus.
“We’ll use this time to get some exposure to future opponents — people that do things different than what we’ve seen to this point,” Saban said. “It’s probably good to spend a few periods doing some things that the players haven’t seen before.”
Vlachos mentioned one particular opponent addressed Tuesday.
“Like today, for example, we watched 10 or 15 minutes of our Auburn game from last year,” Vlachos, the starting center said. “And we almost got through all of our running plays from this season.”