Tide deals with perception of discipline problem
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Oct 07, 2013 | 2029 views |  0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6) puts a hard hit on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in a game played earlier this season. (Photo by Trent Penny)
Alabama defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6) puts a hard hit on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in a game played earlier this season. (Photo by Trent Penny)
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TUSCALOOSA -- A hot topic surrounding Alabama has concerned the team’s recent off-field issues since winning a national title in January.

During the past eight months, the Crimson Tide has had 10 players suspended or dismissed from the team for various reasons.

It has led to a public perception among some the Tide may have a discipline problem. That doesn't appear to be hurting Alabama on the field, as the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide is 5-0 as it works toward a possible third straight national title.

“We’re not going to be willing to worry about anybody’s perception of what’s happening, if we have to take steps to get guys to do the right things the right way at the right time,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “I think that our concern is that we get our players to do the right things the right way all the time. If players are committed and doing the right things, we won’t have those issues to be dealing with.

“But if it’s not happening that way, I think the way to get it that way is to make sure everybody knows and understands that in this world we live in, there’s consequences for every choice and decision that you make.”

According to Saban, success breeds a sense of entitlement. Alabama’s two national championships in the past two seasons have created a standard of excellence that isn’t easy to live up to. Saban said he and his staff are battling constantly against complacency, entitlement and selfishness.

“The way things are right now, and I see it happening every day, is the me-first mentality is something that’s very difficult to have when you’re in such a great team sport like football,” Saban said. “Guys have got to understand that you’ve got to put the team first. You’ve got to buy into the principles and values of the team so that you can have the kind of team chemistry that you need to be successful.”

Star safety HaHa Clinton-Dix is the latest to be suspended. Saban announced his suspension last week for what he called a violation of team rules and policies. There has been no word on how long the suspension will last for Clinton-Dix, generally regarded as a future first-round draft choice.

Linebacker Trey DePriest said the team is supporting Clinton-Dix and that players are blocking out the distractions.

“We can’t let (off-field stuff) affect us on the field,” said DePriest, who was suspended for a week in August for a violation of team rules. “We try not to worry about all that stuff. We can’t. It’s out of our hands so we just keep rolling.”

The 10 players to land in trouble in the last eight months include four players arrested Feb. 11 in connection with robbery and fraud charges -- safety Eddie Williams, linebacker Dennis Pettway, linebacker Tyler Hayes and running back Brent Calloway. All four were dismissed from the team and, later, from school.

Danny Woodson Jr. was suspended in the spring and has transferred to South Alabama, where he was able to gain immediate eligibility to play.

In addition to DePriest's summer suspension, tight end Malcolm Faciane was suspended in August for a violation of team rules. The suspension lasted for for 30 days.

Cornerback Geno Smith was suspended for the season opener after an arrest on a charge of drunken driving.

Starting tailback T.J. Yeldon was suspended for the first quarter of the game against Colorado State. He was flagged for excessive celebration after scoring a touchdown the previous week against Texas A&M.

But as for the perception these issues bring, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron said the players don't worry about it.

"It’s not affecting me as a person," McCarron said. "It has nothing to do with me. It has nothing to do with anybody else. It’s whoever it’s going on with. Us as a team, we can’t let anything like that affect us that we have no control over.”

DePriest said while Saban and coaches are there to inform players of how their actions could affect others, it is also up to each individual player to know how to act off the field.

“He always preaches about that but you should know that just for yourself,” DePriest said. “You’re not just representing you -- you’re representing your family, this team and yourself. You should already know that.”
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