I've been told by more than one player that it's almost better to be on NCAA restrictions than to be in Nick Saban's dog house.
To be put in Nick Saban's dog house means that you've broken a team rule or something similar. It means you've broken your word to Nick Saban and to your teammates and brought bad attention to the university and the team.
I've written about Saban's dog house before. You can see it here and see the players who visited it early last year and why.
Some have never gotten over being in the dog house and felt it best to leave the program—Prince Hall is an example that comes to mind.
Hall started as a freshman and did extremely well. His future at Alabama and in the NFL seemed certain. But then he broke a team rule and was put in Saban's dog house, along with some NCAA sanctions.
The NCAA sanctions ended, but Hall never really ended his time in the dog house and Saban showed the team that no one—not even a starter—can break the rules like Hall did and expect to be forgiven quickly.
Hall ended up transferring with his career all but shattered and he is now trying to scratch out a living in semi-pro ball for a few hundred dollars a game.
Now comes Robby Green's time to step out of the NCAA restrictions and get to play again.
It's been a long year for Green. His one-time roommate was Mark Ingram and he had to endure seeing Mark not only playing, but winning almost every award he could. Talk about having your face rubbed in your punishment daily.
Green was a starter and a star. He has athletic ability and talent and no doubt can be a great player, but will he get the chance?
Not only will Green have to escape Saban's dog house—with the roof still clearly over his head—but he now has to beat out players who developed last year and became stars themselves.
Green was a safety, but with senior Mark Barron clearly entrenched as a starter at one of the safety positions, he can forget winning that job. That leaves Green battling with Robert Lester, who came on strong last year and ended up being Alabama's kickoff specialist.
Now, a former starter may have to be content with battling for playing time in the nickel and dime packages. Marquis Johnson molded himself a job in that role and it got him all the way to the NFL.
Is that the route Green will take or will he have to settle for being a backup and getting some playing time with the hope of having the opportunity to work his way back by making great plays?
To escape Saban's dog house is tough. You have to work harder than anyone else. You have to show you've learned your lesson. You have to show every teammate that they can trust you again and lastly, you have to realize that you're going to be made an example of just how bad it is to be in that dog house as a way of keeping other players from entering it themselves.
I saw Green last year and asked him how hard this year off was. He said it was hard on him, but he now understands that putting yourself and your team first are more important than other distractions, and it's a mistake he'll never make again. He said everything you do—good or bad—has ramifications, not just for the person making it, but for the team.
We can only hope those words are true and that other players have seen his struggles in dealing with a bad decision and the ramifications that came with it. Green seems to hope that this is the case, but he also is hoping for some personal redemption.
As spring practice starts, we'll follow his progress and see how it goes. It's not that Saban's not a forgiving kind of man, it's just that you really have to work hard to prove you deserve it.
Saban's dog house has a thick door and a tough lock on it and just being out of the house won't mean you're still not on a short leash.
How Green handles this will tell NFL scouts a lot about him. As an Alabama fan, as well as a sportswriter who covers the team, I can only hope it goes well.