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Defensive lineman Carl Lawson didn’t want practice restrictions if he spurned early entry into NFL

Defensive lineman Carl Lawson laid out an important condition for Auburn’s coaches if he returned to the Plains for his junior season.

A now healthy Lawson didn’t want to be a part-time player in practice.

Following Auburn’s 31-10 win over Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl, Lawson entertained the idea of entering the NFL Draft. There was little question of Lawson’s first-round talent, but his lengthy injury history created plenty of uncertainty around his draft status.

While weighing his options Lawson had multiple conversations with Auburn’s defensive line coach Rodney Garner. The early tone of those discussions had Garner convinced Lawson was leaning towards leaving Auburn.

“We had a couple conversations, we had some conversations,” Garner said rubbing his chin. “I don’t think it was as clear as everyone thinks, I think he was leaning the other way.”

The Georgia native ultimately changed his mind, but not without making a forceful request of his coach.

“Carl will tell you that because he feels like if he’s not working he’s not getting the rust of his game,” Garner said. “I know it’s one of the things we were talking about whether he is coming out or staying. If I come back I want to be at practice, I don’t want you holding me back, I want to scrimmage, not being able to do certain things hinders my development.”

It was hard for the assistant to fault Lawson’s reasoning considering Garner preaches that kind of commitment to the rest the team.

“That’s the thing about Carl, he’s so competitive, it’s so important to him that he sometimes I don’t think he understands that hey we have to protect you at the same time,” Garner said. “Nobody is questioning your manhood. He’s like I don’t want to let my team down, but no one is even thinking about that.”

Lawson’s competitive nature had him playing on a cracked hip for much of the first half in the season opener against Louisville. Earlier this month, Lawson described hearing a pop, but trying to play one leg. The 6-foot-2, 257-pounder didn’t give any indication how serious the injury actually was.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I had no idea it was so severe,” Garner said. “I saw the guy pull him down, but I had no idea. Did it go to that? No. I’m not going to lie to you. I thought he might have pulled something, strained a muscle or something like that.”

It’s the kind of character and toughness Garner sees everyday from Lawson and why the veteran of Auburn’s coaching staff will miss coaching the lineman when he likely enters the draft after the 2016 season.

“It’s hard to argue with a guy that wants to get better, that’s a joy,” Garner said. “You don’t find that anymore.”