By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama coach Nick Saban doesn’t plan to suspend defensive end Da’Shawn Hand for a driving under the influence arrest, because he wasn’t actually operating the vehicle.
Saban announced that decision Thursday following the first practice of fall camp, addressing a potential distraction on a team that for a change doesn’t face any questions about who’s the starting quarterback. Jalen Hurts and the Crimson Tide are readying for a huge opener Sept. 2 against Florida State in Atlanta, and Hand figures to be available.
The preseason All-Southeastern Conference pick can avoid any suspension after being charged with driving under the influence early last Saturday morning by campus police. The Tuscaloosa News reported that Hand was asleep in his parked car with the engine running.
Saban said the senior will be required to go through a “48-hour inpatient” assessment of his drinking and do community service and police ride-arounds. The senior won’t be suspended if he takes care of that business.
Saban said Hand “put himself in a bad situation” but did what coaches tell players to by not actually driving the car.
Under Alabama law, a person can be charged with DUI if they’re found to have “constructive possession” of a vehicle even if it’s parked.
“It’s not OK that he was drinking, with me, and that’s a behavioral issue that needs to be addressed and we will address it,” Saban said. “But the fact that he didn’t drive the car and wasn’t driving the car, he didn’t put other people at risk which to me is the most significant thing when you drive under the influence. But he didn’t drive.”
Saban said his response would have been the same even if Hand hadn’t been arrested.
“He put himself in that situation at 4:30 in the morning being in that condition,” he said.
Hand, a former five-star recruit, is expected to be one of the standouts in a defense that must replace seven NFL draft picks, including star defensive end Jonathan Allen.
“It happened, but he’s just got to bounce back from it,” linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said. “Da’Shawn’s a really good guy and a good friend of mine. He’ll bounce back.”
The offense will enter the Florida State game with fewer question marks. Hurts gives Alabama a returning starter at quarterback for the first time since 2013.
This time last year, he was a freshman trying to win the job. Since then, the Tide’s other three scholarship quarterbacks have transferred.
Now, Hurts is the unquestioned leader on his side of the ball after being named SEC offensive player of the year. He and the Tide are trying to rebound from a last-second national title game loss to Clemson and Hurts’ passing numbers slumped in the final two games.
“Obviously it’s easy to be motivated,” Hurts said. “There’s always that motivating factor sitting there. It’s in the rearview but the thing about a rearview mirror is you can see it. You can see what’s behind you.
“We’re not looking behind to see what’s behind us but it motivates us.”
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