BIRMINGHAM – Two weeks after hip replacement surgery, Nick Saban walked the putting greens at the Greystone Golf and Country Club with relative ease.
A non-participating guest during Wednesday morning’s Regions Tradition celebrity pro-am, annual event he usually looks forward to participating in, Saban took part in a 50-foot putting challenge before briefly speaking with local media eager for a medical update on the 67-year-old Alabama head coach.
“I’m chipping and putting and I’ll probably be taking half-swings here pretty soon,” Saban said with a smile beneath his familiar straw hat with a script-A. “I think six weeks is probably a reasonable amount of time. So, a few more weeks.”
Saban has made steady progress in his return to action following his April 22 surgery, including famously returning to work at 7 a.m. April 24, less than two days after undergoing robotic-assisted surgery after playing 18 holes earlier that Monday.
“It’s like I tell the players all the time: they don’t make them like they used to and there’s not very many of us left,” Saban joked. “So, I wouldn’t expect them to be able to recover this fast, but it is what it is.”
Saban’s quick return to the office didn’t surprise Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, the longtime former Alabama defensive coordinator and assistant coach under Saban.
“It disappoints me actually wasn’t one day,” Smart joked Wednesday morning before his round in the Regions Tradition Pro-Am. “With him, I can recall a lot of times that no matter what’s going on around him, he’s got an uncanny ability to focus and concentrate and he enjoys what he does. He’s passionate about his work, and a little hip surgery is not going to stop him.”
Saban credits his desire to always be doing something productive to helping jump start his rehab, which was admittedly frustrating for his wife, Terry, who served as Saban’s nursemaid for just one day.
“I sat at home for six hours in a chair (while his wife) Miss Terry took the dogs to the lake, and then I was walking around in the yard when she got back,” Saban joked, “and she said, ‘I’m going to call the doctor or the police, either one of them, on you if you don’t get back into the house.’ I just don’t sit still well.”
While unable to golf or do much physically, Saban has turned his attention to his job as Alabama’s head coach, instead focusing on preparing for the upcoming season.
“I’ve focused on work. I work all the time and golf (very little),” Saban said proudly. “Recruiting is a big thing that’s going on right now, evaluations of the spring, next year’s opponents. It’s actually given me more time to do some of those things, because I can’t really go out and play golf or do anything else.”
During this time, Saban also participates in an extensive rehab program with the Alabama athletic training staff in Tuscaloosa, where head trainer Jeff Allen has even retro-fit part of Saban’s office into a makeshift training room so he doesn’t have to go far for treatment.
“Balance and range of motion is the biggest thing you’re working on, and the balance part, that’s why I was able to walk a day afterwards, that wasn’t an issue,” Saban said. “So I didn’t need a walker and I didn’t need a cane, which probably helps the rehab. As soon as you get the muscles going, you have a better chance to sort of respond.”
Saban should get plenty of time to recover and rehab over the next couple of months, including as he takes his annual summer vacation to South Florida in June and July, before the unofficial start to football season kicks off with SEC Media Days in mid-July.
“The rehab has been great,” Saban said. “We have a great medical staff, so those guys have really done a nice job with me and I appreciate their efforts, and it’s going good.”