Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Still no movement one way or the other on whether Chaz Ramsey will ever play for Auburn again, or, hell, if he'll ever play football again, period.

But thanks to a story from Evan Woodberry from this morning's Press-Register, we have a much clearer picture of how deep the conflict between Ramsey and Auburn runs and how likely it is we'll ever see him in an Auburn uniform again, i.e. not particularly likely. The story's a must-read for anyone interested in Auburn's football program, but if you're short on time, here it is in a nutshell: Ramsey had back surgery. Ramsey says the AU training staff then put him through a rehab regimen that conflicted with the team doctor's orders. After he switched over to the doctor's regimen, Hugh Nall ordered his locker cleaned out for reasons Nall says are related to Ramsey missing team meetings and Ramsey says was retaliation for the conflict with the training staff. At that point Ramsey asked for his release from the team, but he hasn't found anywhere he's interested in transferring to at this point and is still enrolled at Auburn while waiting for medical clearance. Also, Ramsey's Dad is way angry and--unlike his well-spoken son--comes across as a bit of a tool.

What the conflict boils down to is he-said, he-said: Ramsey says the AU staff screwed up his back and then cut him off when he complained, and the AU staff, if they were allowed to speak, would probably say that Ramsey wasn't putting a full effort into his rehabilitation and that he overreacted to their efforts to get him to buy in. But I have to say I don't have a lot of sympathy for Auburn's side of things after I read this:
When he arrived at Auburn's athletic complex one day just before the start of the 2008 season, he found his locker cleaned out and personal belongings set aside on a table. Ramsey left the complex feeling humiliated.

But Nall said the move had nothing to do with Ramsey's ongoing dispute with the training staff. Instead, Nall said Ramsey was effectively "suspended from the offensive line" for missing meetings and treatment sessions.

Nall said there was no other disciplinary avenue to pursue, since he couldn't make Ramsey run or do extra workouts, nor could he fine him as he might in a professional league.

"That left me no choice," said Nall, who has left the coaching business and is now an executive with a trucking firm in Albany, Ga.
I would sum that up in one word if it doesn't actually take even less than that. Just two letters, in fact: B, and S. Someone who's had more football experience than me correct me if I'm wrong, but I have to think that if you clean out a kid's locker, you tell him one thing: You're off the team. There's not much room for interpretation in a message like that, right, especially if it doesn't arrive with a clear, laid-out explanation from the coaches who did it? Why, exactly, is Ramsey supposed to fight his way back onto a team that's already given him the boot, and for reasons he feels like are unfair? Nall says he "was just trying to get his attention," which is the perennial, eternal line of authority figures who have overreached with a punishment and want to paint the recipient of that punishment as an overreacting whiner. Sorry, I'm not buying it, or Nall's contention that Ramsey should have taken the initiative and apologized. If you want a kid on your team, the burden of communication is on you, or otherwise, whaddya know, the kid's going to decide you don't want him on the team.

I'll say this: I doubt pretty seriously Ramsey's been a perfect angel in this whole situation. It strikes me as a little unbelievable even Nall would deploy a nuclear option like a locker-cleaning for no cause whatsoever other than "Ramsey doesn't like the training staff." If--if, this is hardly fact--Ramsey missed scheduled meetings because his medication was screwing with him and never found a way to explain that ahead of time to his coaches, that's on him. Nall's testimony excepted, we still only really have one side of this story.

But that one side is enough to make me believe that things never should have gotten to this point. Auburn had a talented, valuable player on the roster and lost him for reasons--whether they be communications breakdowns, poor training methods, unusually harsh punishments--that certainly aren't all the player's fault. Errors were made, and whether you believe they were major or minor ones, they proved costly all the same. All Auburn can do now is hope Chizik and modern medicine can combine to undo them.

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