TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Alabama coach Nick Saban is adamant he didn't have a role in coming up with the proposed 10-second rule, but equally insistent that hurry-up offenses are indeed hazardous to defensive players' health.
Saban believes something needs to be done in the name of safety, not to protect his formidable defenses from no-huddle teams like Auburn and Texas A&M, who have had some success against the Crimson Tide.
"For all of you out there that know what I'm thinking and the fact that I'm trying to create an advantage for the defense, I'm not trying to create an advantage for the defense," he said Wednesday in an informal session with beat writers. "I don't even think we need an advantage. Why do we need an advantage? If you look at the statistics, we've been playing better than most.
"But it is an advantage to go fast, and I can understand exactly why coaches that go fast want to do it. It's an advantage. There's no question. And it's really who's creating a competitive advantage then?"
The proposed rule change would have penalized offenses for snapping the ball with more than 29 seconds remaining on the 40-second play clock. It was tabled by an NCAA committee on Wednesday and won't go to a vote for approval.
Saban and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema addressed the committee that voted in favor of the 10-second rule in February.
The Tide coach, who has won three national titles in the last five seasons, said he was asked to speak to speak on safety and game administration issues related to pace of play but "had nothing to do with the 10-second rule."
"I didn't vote on the committee," he said. "I didn't offer any solutions to the problems. I just not only gave my opinion, but presented a lot statistical data that would support the fact that pace of play is creating a lot longer games and a lot more plays in games."
"Now I know a lot of you say there's no statistical information that says if you play 88 plays in the game you have a better chance to get hurt if you play 65 plays in a game. Over 12 games that 250 plays, approximately. That's four games more that you are playing."
Saban noted that the NCAA limits teams' number of practices and full-contact sessions. To him, that doesn't address the area where most injuries occur: Games.
"We have all these rules to limit exposure, but the data says there are seven players who get hurt in the game to everyone that gets hurt in practice," he said. "That's a fact. OK. We are going to limit practice, which is exactly what the NFL did last year to no avail helping injuries. They actually had more injuries, I think, when everybody is getting hurt in the game. Not everybody, but 7-to-1.
"The game is longer and more plays. And the pace of the game is faster. I'm just one that doesn't thinks that the officials should not control the pace of the game. That's what I think."
He said football wasn't meant to be a game of continuous action like soccer or rugby.
Saban also cited a study where some Virginia Tech players played and practiced using helmets with sensors measuring the impact of hits to their heads. Saban said they averaged some 61 plays in games that were measured.
"Well, if you took another team that goes no-huddle and averages 88 plays a game instead of 61 plays a game, how many sub-concussive hits would they get?" he said. "Is it wrong to assume that the right tackle and the five technique (defensive end) aren't going to hit that many more plays in the game, or are they going to get out of each other's way?"
Saban said it was determined no-huddle teams only snapped the ball inside of 10 seconds four times a game on average.
Auburn's Gus Malzahn has said the rule would change "the dynamics of traditional football in a lot more ways than anyone would think." Saban disagrees with that premise.
"You're not really affecting how they play but what keeps you from being able to ever take a defensive player out — whether he's hurt, pre-existing condition, whatever it is — is the fact that they might snap the ball," Saban said. "So you can't do anything. You've got to call timeout to get a guy out. And if you tell a guy to get down, that's really against the rules, and they boo him out of the park."
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