Alabama players arrived at Louis Armstrong International Airport to the sound of the 3rd Line Brass Band, as the Crimson Tide was welcomed to a New Orleans Bowl Championship Series game for the second time in four years.
Players still remember the stinging defeat the Tide suffered at the hands of Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl, as Alabama lost 31-17 to the Utes. After the game, many questioned if the Tide was mentally prepared for the game.
Linebacker, Dont’a Hightower was a freshman on the 2009 Sugar Bowl team and said this year it is important that the Tide focus more on the game than the entertaining atmosphere that New Orleans has to offer.
“Guys [are] just trying to lay back and relax,” he said. “Practice has been going pretty good. We had a real good practice before we headed down so I was going to try to relax a little bit tonight. Just be more concentrated about the game than trying to have fun.”
Hightower said leaders of the team came to the decision of a daily curfew between midnight and 1 a.m. for the team. The curfew will depend on the situation, but once a curfew is set for the night it will be followed strictly.
“It’s based on how we feel about it,” Hightower said. “Coach says he’s already got it set so we’ll just take it from there. It’s already been told. As a leadership group we kind of set curfew up. So, if after practice guys want to go out and shop at the mall that’s fine, but even if you’re a minute late for curfew you’re going home.”
Because the Tide did not play in the SEC Championship game, the team has not played in over a month. While the rest is something many Tide players needed, the time off can also serve as a detriment if players are not careful.
“It’s very important,” safety Mark Barron said. “When you have that much time off you might lose some of your fundamentals. It’s very important to pay attention to those details during those practices and that’s what we focused on the whole time. We’ve been off for a long time and we’re ready to go now.”
Despite the big stage, running back Trent Richardson said he is not getting too swept up in the game, but rather relishing the opportunity to participate in something special.
“I’m not one of the guys to get too excited about the game,” Richardson said. “It’s more or less about going back and being a part of something I really wanted to be a part of a couple years ago. I have that chance to be a part of something I really wanted.”
In just four years the class of 2012 has been through numerous big games, none bigger than the 2010 national championship game. The Tide still has many players left from the team that hosted the crystal trophy in Pasadena. For Alabama, the challenge will be to build off of that experience and maintain focus in order to bring a 14th national championship home from New Orleans.
“[Championship experience] helps a lot,” Richardson said. “That comes with leadership and veterans and a lot of guys know how to go out and practice and how to go about things. We are going to step up as leaders on the team and we are going to get after it.”
Continue to check The Crimson White’s website for live coverage of all the press conferences leading up to the national championship.