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Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick will play through kidney injury in national championship game

Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick will play through kidney injury in national championship game
Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is second on the team in solo tackles (36) and passes defensed (seven), and third in tackles for loss (seven). (Butch Dill / Associated Press)

It sounds like a broken record by now, news of Alabama suffering yet another injury.

On Saturday, multiple reports had defensive back and team leader Minkah Fitzpatrick dealing with a bruised kidney. He acknowledged: “There’s some truth to it.”

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But there’s a difference this time.

“I’m playing,” he said.

That’s good news for a Crimson Tide team that will face Georgia for the College Football Playoff championship on Monday night. Fitzpatrick is second on the team in solo tackles (36) and passes defensed (seven), and third in tackles for loss (seven).

After losing a number of key players during the regular season, Alabama had more hurt in last week’s semifinal victory over Clemson at the Sugar Bowl. Coach Nick Saban said linebacker Anfernee Jennings and offensive lineman Lester Cotton Sr. are not expected to play Monday.

“It’s a huge blow when you lose one of your starters,” running back Damien Harris said. “Guys are going to have to step up.”

Fitzpatrick reportedly visited a hospital after the Sugar Bowl. Word of the injury leaked on Twitter.

“It's not really funny when it's regarding of my health,” he said. “But you can't really do nothing about it.”

Home sweet home

After the CFP’s annual media day — both teams paraded before scores of journalists at Philips Arena —Alabama held afternoon practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Georgia, meanwhile, eschewed a local training site in favor of the hourlong bus ride back to campus in Athens.

“We thought it would be best to be in our normal setting,” Coach Kirby Smart said. “We asked permission of the CFP, and they granted that.”

There has been plenty of speculation about the Bulldogs enjoying a de facto home-field advantage because of their school’s proximity. Asked if this might be an example, Saban did not have much to say.

“I’ve got enough to worry about, about our team,” he said.

Hail to the chief

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Amid reports that President Trump will be in attendance Monday night, reaction from players and coaches ranged from excitement to indifference.

“It kind of shows you the significance of the game,” Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans said.

Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith expressed similar enthusiasm but did not want it to distract from game preparations. His coach struck a nonpartisan note.

“You know, that's a political event,” Smart said. “And to be honest with you, we're focused on Alabama and the championship game, and that's not really of my concern.”

Saban not running

Speaking of politics, news reports last month had Saban receiving approximately 400 write-in votes during the Senate election in Alabama. Democratic candidate Doug Jones narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore .

Is public office something the Alabama coach might consider post-football?

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I don’t know how I got the votes … don’t really care that I got any votes.”

Tide family tree

Smart is the latest former Saban assistant to go head to head with his old boss.

Given Alabama’s success over the past decade, it isn’t surprising that Crimson Tide staff members have been lured away for head-coaching jobs at other schools.

While those protégés have enjoyed varying degrees of success, they have gone a woeful 0-11 when returning to face Saban.

Smart noted that assistants usually leave for a team that needs rebuilding. Or a program that isn’t quite of Alabama’s stature.

“I would venture to say he's been favored in all 11,” Smart said of Saban. “He's got really good players.”

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