At this point in Tua Watch 2019, the will-he-or-won’t-he drama (or diversion) of whether Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will play against No. 1 LSU on Nov. 9, all the available physical evidence has been discussed by everyone from Nick Saban to a team of doctors from the Swedish Institute of Stockholm — well, maybe not them although “Swedish Institute” always sounds impressive. Doctors who have not been within a thousand miles of Tuscaloosa have given their opinion, to say nothing of all of the couch MD’s who also are on the case. People who can barely change a lightbulb (my hand is raised) can explain tightrope surgery in “Grey’s Anatomy” detail.
So on Wednesday, with Tua practicing against “air,” as Nick Saban said, the speculators did the same. After all, there are not only the physical realities to be dealt with. There are also psychological ones, and even philosophical ones, a thorny path that winds past questions like “Will he play?” to the land of “Should he play?”
Nick Saban addressed both on Wednesday, without changing the prognosis from the constant “Game Day Decision.”
“I know he’s going to want to play,” Saban said. “What I always say to the player is “I know you want to play, but can you do your job?” … and nobody knows that but the player.
“Tua has always done everything around here that he can actually do to help the team. He’s always made great choices and decisions. He’s smart. He’s bright. And I don’t think he would put himself into a position nor would we want to put him in a position going forward where what he does would have any effect on his future.”
That was part of a longer answer about whether Tagovailoa’s future might be better protected by skipping the SEC Game of the Year — or playing in it.
“I wouldn’t care if a guy was a first-round pick or had no future as a player,” Saban said. “We would never put a player at risk if the medical staff, the player himself and everybody involved in the organization didn’t think the guy was capable of going out there and doing his job at a high level. It wouldn’t create any value for him and it certainly wouldn’t help us.
“We’ve had a lot of players around here who have gone and done extremely well for themselves in the NFL and been high draft picks. But I guess the question would be did they create value for themselves by being great competitors?”
“People still value guys who want to make the best decision about what they do. I know in the eight years I was in the (NFL), people always said ‘the warrior mentality — this guy’s really tough, he plays hard and things don’t bother him, he’s not going to be on the sidelines if he gets a little nicked up.’ I’m not saying every player is capable of that and I’m not saying every player is like that. But the question is ‘what really creates value for you?’ If you can’t go out there and play with any consistency and you don’t have any durability as a player, is that a positive or a negative? So there’s another side of that and I don’t really try to promote that with the players but I’m just saying there is another side to all this.”
There are, in fact, several sides, questions that only time —nine more days for some of the questions, perhaps nine more months for some of the others — can answer.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt