Ha Ha Clinton-Dix made his return from a suspension on Saturday, but it wasn’t under the circumstances that he or No. 1 Alabama intended it to be.
Junior safety Vinnie Sunseri left the Crimson Tide’s 52-0 victory over Arkansas in the first quarter and didn’t return to the game. After the game, coach Nick Saban said Sunseri sustained a knee injury and would undergo an MRI Sunday but that “it could be serious.”
He returned to the sideline in the second half without pads on. He walked with a noticeable limp and was seen hugging his teammates on the sideline during the game.
The players didn’t seem too optimistic about his return after the game.
“Vinnie means a lot. It’ll definitely be a loss for us. But at the same time he’ll be able to be there and still talk to guys,” quarterback AJ McCarron said. “He does a lot for us.”
Sunseri has recorded 20 tackles on the year, but made highlight reels with his two interceptions returned for touchdowns this season.
He picked off Logan Thomas in the season opener and two weeks later in College Station, Texas, jumped on a Johnny Manziel pass that he took 73 yards for a touchdown.
“For leadership, he’s still going to be there,” senior C.J. Mosley said. “If he’s playing or not, he’s going to be on the sideline helping the younger guys out. The younger guys will have to step up and get adjusted to it. When Ha Ha went out, young guys [came] in. It’ll be no different. It can’t be an excuse not to be a great defense.”
Clinton-Dix was reinstated by the NCAA on Friday and entered the game on Saturday when Sunseri left. Landon Collins slid over to strong safety in Sunseri’s place and Clinton-Dix played free safety.
“I just want to apologize to my family, teammates, university and fans for the mistake I made during the summer and I have learned from it [sic],” Clinton-Dix tweeted Sunday.
Clinton-Dix was reportedly suspended for accepting a $500 loan from a strength and conditioning coach. He practiced with the scout team during his suspension.
“It felt great just to be back with my team,” Clinton-Dix said after the game. “It was [frustrating] but at the same time I’ve got to worry about me. Continue to stay in shape, cover guys and keep up with them.”
Saban said the plan was to play Clinton-Dix in the “money” position in Alabama’s secondary, essentially the fourth cornerback. But when the injury struck, Clinton-Dix was forced into the game.
He recorded five tackles and an interception.
“When Vinnie went out, he was the next guy in and did a good job,” Saban said. “He used his experience to know and adjust the formations. I think his leadership really helped the other guys because Vinnie has been making most of the calls and that stuff. It was good to get him back and have that kind of experience.”
Saban is expected to announce Sunseri’s status on Monday.