Nick Saban: I never said we all met

ByAlex Scarborough ESPN logo
Saturday, April 19, 2014

Nick Saban visited with Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning at the Alabama football offices early last week. Saban also spent time with Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase -- on the same day and in the same location.

But don't connect the dots any further than that, Saban insists.

"I never said we sat down together," Saban said in an interview with The Denver Post on Friday night.

The Alabama coach made headlines Thursday when he told reporters of the visit with Manning and Gase.

The meeting, as Saban described it, was a mutually beneficial experience in which Manning sought out ways to improve his game, Gase was able to talk shop, and Saban and his staff were able to learn a thing or two about the no-huddle offense.

But had the visit of Manning and Gase occurred simultaneously, it might constitute a violation of the NFL collective-bargaining agreement that forbids players from having meetings with coaches before teams begin their offseason workout programs.

Saban's vague language Thursday -- "The two of them were just making some visits" -- seemed to indicate it was a collaborative effort, prompting an NFL review of the matter. Saban's collective use of the word "them" seemed to tie the coach and coordinator together.

Whether it is a punishable violation by the NFL is still to be determined, the league has said.

As Saban told reporters Thursday night: "Since they're a no-huddle team, we had a lot of questions for them, in terms of what gives them problems and what defensive teams do that gives them problems. That was kind of a mutual, hopefully beneficial.

"I know it was a benefit to us. I hope it was a benefit to them as well."

But after a day of the get-together running through the news cycle, Saban spoke with The Denver Post to clarify his comments.

On the eve of Alabama's final spring scrimmage, he told the newspaper that he was "shocked that anybody would think someone did anything wrong" and that this is "what happens when people assume."

"I never met with Adam," he said. "When I talked with him I talked about his family. Peyton, we talked an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Adam had been talking to our assistant coaches. I never talked with Adam about football."

Saban said Manning and Gase didn't arrive together. If they left together, you'd have to ask them.

"Peyton had called and said he wanted to drop by," Saban said. "Adam had already been around for a couple days when Peyton showed up. It was kind of a coincidence that they were around at the same time. I don't know if they left together but I know they didn't arrive here together.

"I was asked about their visit at my coach's clinic press conference but I never said we sat down together. Because we didn't."

Saban's ties to Manning and Gase are well documented. Saban coached against Manning while at Miami and has been friends with father Archie Manning for some time. Gase, meanwhile, got his start coaching under Saban, first at Michigan State and then at LSU.

It was clear in Saban's tone Thursday that he didn't perceive anything untoward about Manning's and Gase's visits to Tuscaloosa. In fact, Saban used Manning as an example for other athletes to follow.

"A lot of people would say, 'Wow, the guy is one of the best, if not the best, from a career standpoint and about as good as anyone has been in the history of the league,'" Saban said of Manning. "After all the experience and knowledge that he has, he's going out to try and seek more knowledge and understudying of the game of football so he can play better.''

Whether attempting to improve himself as a football player will get Manning or Gase in trouble remains to be seen. If the case of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and coach Jason Garrett in owner Jerry Jones' suite at the NCAA Final Four is any indication, it might be all smoke and no fire, as the NFL has not come down on the Cowboys.

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