Bama’s Watkins makes swift return from broken arm

Even Alabama coach Nick Saban did a double-take when linebacker

Alex Watkins trotted onto the practice field two days after surgery

on a broken arm.

”You back already?” Saban asked him.

The same question was certainly appropriate less than two weeks

later when Watkins returned to action for the fourth-ranked Crimson

Tide against No. 1 LSU, with 23 staples stretching some seven

inches down his left forearm.

Watkins’ swift return has wowed teammates, and Saban. The senior

from rural Tennessee seems less impressed by his display of

toughness.

”I’ve been chopping wood since I was about 8,” Watkins said.

”So I guess you can count it as I’ve got a high tolerance for

pain.”

Injured against Tennessee, Watkins had a plate inserted in his

left arm on Oct. 23 and wound up not having to miss a game thanks

to an open date.

Equally impressive, he didn’t skip a single practice after

surgery.

”That’s the epitome of toughness there,” Tide center William

Vlachos said. ”I can’t imagine what that feels like, but that’s

obviously some toughness.”

He has 13 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble – and two significant

comebacks – going into Saturday night’s game at Mississippi

State.

A fixture on special teams, Watkins had already undergone

surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in late March,

but was back for the season opener.

”I mean, the guy loves playing,” Alabama noseguard Josh

Chapman said. ”He loves competing. People have a different

tolerance for pain. That’s one thing he does not have is pain. I

mean, he has a broken arm, a messed up knee. I mean, it’s just

going to be a temporary thing.”

Tailback Trent Richardson called Watkins ”like our Superman out

there.”

Watkins’ arm is a little high-maintenance when it comes to

practicing and playing. He has a soft cushion placed around it,

followed by a hard cast and foam.

Watkins said the process takes about 18 minutes and he gets a

new cast after every practice. He was scheduled to get the staples

removed on Thursday.

Saban, by the way, is still impressed.

”Alex Watkins is an amazing guy,” the coach said. ”He has

been a great leader for this group and really cares about the team.

He has done so many good things to affect other people, and I don’t

get surprised much when guys come back from injuries, but this guy

never missed a day.

”I mean he gets his arm operated on, and a plate put in his

arm, on Sunday and runs out onto the field on (Tuesday) like he’s

ready to practice.”

Saban said Watkins was limited in practice for a week to 10

days. He played on special teams against LSU and didn’t record a

tackle, but could see an increased role Saturday night.

Watkins broke his arm when an offensive lineman blocked him

while he had hold of a Tennessee running back.

”When I broke it, I’m thinking my season’s over, but I gotta

fight back,” Watkins said. ”I can’t miss any games because it’s

my last year.”

He’s from Nutbush, Tenn., a west Tennessee town of about 250

best known for cotton and as the birthplace of Tina Turner.

Chapman said he’s just a tough country boy.

”He’s a fighting guy, one of those guys that pain’s just

temporary,” the noseguard said. ”He’ll get it fixed later on in

life. He’s one of those guys who’s the heart and soul of this

program.”