HaHa Clinton-Dix may not be playing football these days, but that doesn't mean NFL scouts aren't interested in how the star junior safety from Alabama is handling his time off.
An indefinite suspension for a violation of team rules -- reportedly for accepting a loan from an assistant strength coach who had ties to an agent -- put Clinton-Dix's junior season on ice after four games. There has been no indication of when, or if, he might return this season. According to NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, however, how Clinton-Dix responds during the suspension will be among the things NFL scouts and general managers will eventually ask Alabama coach Nick Saban about.
"It can say something about his football character and leadership skills," Brooks said. "If he continues to stay up on what they are putting in game-plan wise, and help Landon Collins and younger guys in secondary who are stepping in for him, that's what (scouts) want to hear. He's taken what could be a negative and worked to turn it into a positive. ... A lot of scouts will view this as if he's been injured. What did he do during that time to rehab? Was he around the team? Did he go on his own? All those things go into the makeup of a player. You want guys who love football, and a lot of the evaluation comes from what happens behind the scenes."
Saban indicated Monday that Clinton-Dix has responded well to the suspension.
"I think he's done as good of a job of trying to practice and continue to improve, working in practice on the scout team, as anyone could," Saban said, according to al.com. "I'm sure it's a difficult circumstance. Nobody that is a true competitor likes not to be there for his teammates. HaHa has been that kind of player for us."
Clinton-Dix's work with the scout team during practice means he's playing in the upcoming opponent's defense each week, rather than Alabama's, preparing the Crimson Tide's first-unit offense for what it will see. Third-stringers, redshirting freshmen and walk-ons typically handle that duty, so the infusion of one of the nation's elite safeties into that mix can do nothing but help the Alabama offense's preparation.
Until he returns to the playing field, it can't hurt Clinton-Dix's ability to adapt to different defensive responsibilities from week to week.
"There are a ton of coaches who will trade in a little athleticism for a little mental acumen, football IQ," Brooks added. "If Saban is able to give his blessing on HaHa to NFL teams about the way he checks calls on the back end, the way he takes it from the chalkboard to the field, that's huge. A lot of guys who are playing can't do that."