In stunning preseason development, Alabama football coach Nick Saban tells a joke (seriously)

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama coach Nick Saban is not humorless, regardless of public opinion. He can get a laugh on his occasional appearances on the clinic and banquet circuits like most polished public speakers. But he rarely lets his sense of humor flash in his post-practice Zoom updates, especially with the season opener against Miami just 10 days away.

That’s why the media had to pause for a moment to process the fact that he was kidding around about Australian-born punting candidate James Burnip as he plays American football for the first time.  

Asked if Burnip was “more comfortable” with American football after three weeks of practice, a deadpan Saban set the sarcasm level on “stun.”

“Well, we basically have him going over with the rugby team every day so he can play rugby and feel more comfortable doing that since we’re so worried about him playing football,” Saban said. “He’s doing really well with the rugby part of it, so we will see how that goes. He has made a lot of improvement and a lot of progress in terms of feeling comfortable. He does have a variety of ways he can punt the ball, and he’s pretty effective at it.” 

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As always, Saban’s deadpan answer had a small sting as the next question about Burnip’s comfort level might be one too many for the coach. There was also no opportunity to ask a follow-up question about a potential kangaroo mascot at elephant-free Bryant-Denny Stadium  

Burnip has gotten positive reviews from observers at the two Alabama football scrimmages but remains in competition with returnee Ty Perine, who punted in 2019, and Troy transfer Jack Martin. 

Alabama does have a rugby team at the club level and is looking to resume play after COVID-19 interruptions on 2020. 

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt.