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Nick Saban: Safety is No. 1 reason for defensive substitution rule

  • By Daniel Kim NFL.com
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Rusty Costanza / Associated Press
Alabama's Nick Saban said hurry-up offenses lead to more plays, which could lead to more injuries.

The NCAA's proposed defensive substitution rule has often been linked to Alabama head coach Nick Saban, so much so that South Carolina's Steve Spurrier has sarcastically called it the "Saban Rule."

The rule would prohibit an offense from snapping the ball before 10 seconds has elapsed on the play clock -- a proposal that several coaches, including Spurrier and Auburn's Gus Malzahn, vehemently oppose.

Friday, in an interview with Al.com, Saban gave his first public comments about the proposed rule, emphasizing that his support for it has mainly to do with increased player safety.

"When you look at plays that are run, and a team averages 88 plays, and we average 65 at Alabama -- that's 20-something plays more a game over a 12-game season," Saban said. "That adds up to four more games a year that guys have to play. I think it's wear and tear and tougher to prepare players when you have to play against a hurry-up offense because of the way you have to practice."

Saban acknowledged that there isn't "any particular scientific evidence" that hurry-up offenses increase the risk of injuries, but said his concern is centered on how much "exposure" a player receives in a game.

"We've always tried to limit spring practice, we limit fall camp, we limit the number of days you can hit now," Saban said. "The NFL even limited their practice even more, but really found that they got more guys hurt in the games. The ratio of guys that get hurt in the game is 7 to 1 that guys get hurt in practice. So we're limiting practice, and playing more plays in the game."

Saban raised two more points that he hoped the rules committee would consider -- that the rule would help officials get in position before the ball is snapped; and it would help address "any competitive imbalance created by the pace of play."

Several coaches have come out against the proposed rule, including Spurrier, Malzahn, Georgia's Mark Richt, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Baylor's Art Briles, who has called the proposal "insane."

"I feel like if you can train offensive players to play five or six plays in a row, you can train defensive players to play that many plays in a row, too," Richt said. "I personally don't think it's a health-issue deal, but if there's some evidence otherwise, it will be interesting to see it."

Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, the chairman of the NCAA rules committee, has said the proposal should not become a rule unless data show increased injury risk.

Saban's response to the opposition from other coaches:

"I think if you ask the guys philosophically, a lot of them that run the offense, they say we want to wear the defense down and get the defense tired," he said. "Well, you get the defensive players tired, they are going to be more susceptible to getting injured."

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