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Nick Saban Speaks on Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey Skipping Bowl Games

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2016

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on in the second half against the Florida Gators during the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Count Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban among those who have weighed in on the decisions by LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey to skip their respective bowl games.

Saban said Wednesday the kids shouldn't be blamed and instead pointed the finger at college football and the creation of a playoff for minimizing the importance of other bowl games, per Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com:

Mark Schlabach @Mark_Schlabach

Alabama coach Nick Saban weighed in on players skipping bowls during interview with #ESPN https://t.co/X70nRLUIkG

McCaffrey announced he would skip Stanford's Sun Bowl showdown with North Carolina to get ready for the 2017 NFL draft on his Twitter account:

Christian McCaffrey @run__cmc

https://t.co/zeGcGtWlPy

Fournette won't play in LSU's Citrus Bowl matchup with Louisville and said he wants to rest his injured ankle, per Ross Dellenger of The Advocate. Fournette tallied carries in just seven games this season because of injuries after amassing 300 carries and 1,953 rushing yards in 2015.

Each has a bright future considering Todd McShay of ESPN.com projected Fournette as the No. 7 pick to the Carolina Panthers and McCaffrey as the No. 32 pick to the New England Patriots in his latest mock draft.

The running back position is arguably football's most grueling, and all it would take is one play in the bowl games that have zero championship implications to drastically impact their careers and future earning potential.

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith was a potential top-10 pick but suffered a knee injury in last season's Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State and eventually fell to the second round of the draft.

Saban hinted that this is a trend that will continue among those college players who are no longer competing for a national championship in some of the lesser bowl matchups.

However, Texas A&M's Myles Garrett—who could be the No. 1 pick in the draft—said he would play in his team's Texas Bowl matchup against Kansas State, per Ben Baby of the Dallas Morning News.

Saban isn't the first coach to discuss the decisions. “He's done all you can do at the college football level,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said of McCaffrey, per Tom FitzGerald of SFGate.com. “He's mentally, physically and emotionally prepared for this next step."

However, Miami Hurricanes head coach Mark Richt expressed a team-oriented view, per Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald: "I think it's sad, personally. Football is the greatest team sport there is, and I think until the season is over, you should be with your team, really and truly."

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott offered a player's perspective but ultimately backtracked when he learned McCaffrey and Fournette have dealt with physical setbacks:

Ezekiel Elliott @EzekielElliott

All these young guys deciding to skip their bowl games 🤔.I would do anything to play one more time with my brothers in that scarlet and gray

Ezekiel Elliott @EzekielElliott

My bad though I didn't realize they were already battling injuries. So I guess it makes sense.

Saban is uniquely positioned because of Alabama's dominance. The Crimson Tide are the defending national champions and will play Washington on New Year's Eve in the College Football Playoff. They have been in the playoff system all three years since its inception and won four of the last seven national titles.

Alabama is always loaded with NFL-caliber players, but the postseason stakes will likely continue to be higher for the program than many others as long as Saban is in charge.

As long as Alabama is playing for national titles, Saban probably won't have to worry about any of his players sitting out the postseason games.

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