The notion that Alabama football players enter the NFL with worn-down bodies is offensive to Nick Saban.
And the Alabama coach is waiting to hear it from someone other than the media.
"When you talk to NFL teams, none of them ever say that to me. I don't know where that came from. Eddie Lacy comes out and is rookie of the year as a running back. Where's the wear and tear? We had 45 guys on NFL rosters last year, which is more than any other college team, so where's the wear and tear? I don't see it. Dr. (Lyle) Cain and Dr. (James) Andrews are our team doctors who deal with a lot of NFL players. They monitor what we do with our players," Saban said on the Brock and Salk radio show on Friday. "I don't think this is factual at all, and I resent the fact that anybody in the NFL, with the access we give them, the things we do to try to help them ... that anyone would make a statement like that and hurt our program, if it were true. I don't get that. I have heard people in the media say that before, but I haven't heard anybody in the NFL actually say that."
High mileage on the physical odometer for any player would be an obvious concern for NFL clubs in the scouting process. It's one reason the NFL Scouting Combine includes rigorous medical examinations. Saban's example of a former Alabama running back Eddie Lacy is an interesting one, as the rushing load Derrick Henry took on last season advanced the narrative.
Although the Crimson Tide runs a physical pro-style offense, Saban's offenses have typically split carries between two running backs. Henry's 395-carry season last year was the exception, but in previous seasons, Alabama's top two rushers have shared the rushing load much more evenly.
Saban's line of starting running backs at Alabama, beginning with former San Francisco 49ers third-round pick Glen Coffee, each split playing time with a younger back. For Coffee, it was Mark Ingram, who in turn shared carries with Trent Richardson, who later shared them with Lacy. Lacy split time with T.J. Yeldon, then Yeldon with Henry.
Then again, the perception that Alabama players enter the pro ranks more beaten up than others isn't limited to just running backs.
"I think that's really unfair. We use a catapult system here, which is a GPS system that measures wear and tear on players. We certainly keep a balance in what we do. We also keep a record of how our players progress through the season and how they finish the season, based on the workload we have," Saban said. "Those players all improve their workload throughout the season. We had the lowest injury rate of any team in our conference, which is the only way we can measure it. I think a lot of those things are not even true."
Alabama had seven players chosen in the 2016 draft: OL Ryan Kelly, RB Derrick Henry, RB Kenyan Drake, DL Jarran Reed, DL A'Shawn Robinson, LB Reggie Ragland and CB Cyrus Jones. None enter their NFL rookie seasons with lingering injuries, though Drake was the most injury prone of the group over the course of his college career.