Alabama's Nick Saban stresses importance of masks, following safety protocols

Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Monday that he doesn't fear contracting the coronavirus but stressed the importance of wearing masks and following the proper safety protocols to keep players healthy and provide an opportunity to play football this fall.

Saban, who often lines up guest speakers during camp, said that the surgeon general would be speaking to the team later that night.

"We're trying to inform our players and give them the best possible education in every possible health and medical issue that COVID-19 can possibly present to them," he said. "We're constantly weighing the consequences of playing, but we're also weighing the consequences of not playing and how that would impact the players in what they do and the isolation it would create for them and how we could manage it for them."

Saban reported that players have been tested twice weekly for COVID-19 since July and that the positivity rate in recent weeks has fallen below 1%.

He also emphasized the importance of the "personal bubble" players have to keep outside the football facility, adding that whenever he visits his 88-year-old mother, the two sit 10 feet apart in order to stay safe.

"I say, 'Mom, I'm not giving you a hug today because I love you,'" the 68-year-old Saban said. "I think there's a lot of changes that we all have to make in our lifestyle and the things that we do to try to stay safe, and we certainly have respected those things. We do the same thing when we're in meetings with players -- we stay spread out, everybody has social distance, everybody wears a mask. So we're doing everything we can to stay safe.

"I don't fear this because we're trying to do the right thing and we have great medical care here and we have great medical protocols to try to keep people safe."

On Sunday, Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne tweeted a picture showing large crowds waiting to get in area bars with the majority of patrons not wearing masks, saying, in part, "We've got to do better than this ..."

Saban said he didn't want to criticize anyone but pointed out that the freedom of choice in a democracy relies on people making decisions with integrity.

"A lot of people have asked that we wear masks when we're in public, when we're in crowds, when we're in large groups of people, that we keep social-distanced," he said. "I don't think they're doing that just for the heck of it. I think there's a reason for it. We're trying to control the spread of this disease, and I think that our ability to do that's going to go a long way in saying whether we can play football or not.

"But bigger than that, it's just your own personal bubble for your own personal safety. Every one of these students, to take the proper care of themselves and respect the protocols that people are recommending for your safety, and I just think that's the smart thing to do."

Saban declined to say whether any players had decided to opt out of the season, reiterating that everyone has been told, "You don't have to do anything you're not comfortable with."

The SEC released its full schedule on Monday night as Alabama wrapped up its first day of preseason practice. The Crimson Tide open with Missouri on Sept. 26.

"I'm pleased with it," Saban said of the 10-game, conference-only schedule. "I looked at this schedule, and I think they did it as fairly as possible. We go to Missouri to start, play Texas A&M early. We've got to play everybody at some point in time, so we've just got to take it one game at a time, and that's exactly how we've always approached it and will approach it right now."