TUSCALOOSA, Ala.–Nick Saban was defensive and apologetic in his first press conference since the arrest and dismissal of defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor.
On Monday, Saban said he takes responsibility and does not condone Taylor’s behavior. He also said he has learned from this experience, but stayed firm on his stance of giving players second chances.
“I’m not apologizing for the opportunity that we gave him,” Saban said. “I wanted to try to help the guy make it work and it didn’t work.
“We’re sorry that it didn’t work. We’re sorry that there was an incident and we’re sorry for the people that were involved in the incident. But we’re not apologizing for what we did and we’re going to continue to create opportunities for people in the future.”
Taylor was arrested and charged in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night for domestic violence and was officially removed from the team the following day. He was dismissed from Georgia for a similar arrest. That case is still pending.
Saban, who has frequently discussed his propensity for giving second chances to players, said Taylor didn’t take advantage of his opportunity, even with the strict guidelines placed upon him.
Before he was signed, Saban said he thoroughly vetted Taylor and spoke with people who could shed a light on what type of person he was. Taylor participated in counseling and psychological evaluations while at Alabama that included domestic violence classes and was given specific guidelines to follow, as well as a zero tolerance policy. Saban said Taylor never missed a session of his counseling.
Last weekend was filled with bad news for Alabama. On Saturday morning, safety Geno Smith was arrested for his second DUI, wide receiver Cam Sims injured his ACL during practice Saturday and will need surgery, and the arrest and subsequent dismissal Taylor happened late Saturday night. Smith is being dealt with internally, as Saban said he has never dismissed a player for two incidents with alcohol or drugs.
But Taylor’s story has received the coverage mostly because of the level of scrutiny Alabama brought upon itself by signing him.
“A lot of guys have gotten second chances,” center Ryan Kelly said. “But there’s a standard that Coach Saban and this University holds us to and that’s something we don’t stand for here.”
Kelly said the team held a meeting before practice Monday and talked at length about the incident and decision surrounding Taylor.
“It’s not something you can sweep under the rug and not talk about as a team,” Kelly said.
While Saban opened his press conference with thoughts on the team’s on-field progress during the spring, the questions surrounding Taylor — and to a lesser extent Smith — were unavoidable.
“I still think he’s a good person,” Saban said of Taylor. “I think he has a problem in a circumstance and a situation that is not acceptable and that is his problem.”
Saban has had success in signing players with past transgressions and turning them into productive players and productive members of society — D.J. Pettway springs to mind — and he will most likely continue to do so.
“We will continue to try to create opportunities for players and try to help them be successful,” Saban said. “Even in Jonathan Taylor’s case, if there’s anything we can do to help him overcome his issues and problem, we will still certainly try and help him be successful, but right now, the guy just can’t be on our football team.”