Alabama running back Najee Harris said Friday that he never considered opting out, but he conceded that he's concerned about starting preseason practice without knowing whether there will be a football season.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have postponed fall sports during the coronavirus pandemic, but the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are proceeding with plans to begin the season in September. Alabama opens camp on Monday.
"I'm not trying to go into camp [without] really knowing that we might not have a season or not," Harris told reporters during a Zoom call. "It's just so many uncertainties that it is what it is. That's something to work with, I have to deal with."
Harris said the mood of the team is one of wanting to play but not knowing whether they'll be able to.
"We wish there's more certainty, but we understand this isn't something that's going to be known in, like, the next day or something like that, or the next couple of hours," he said. "It's a pandemic. We understand that."
Harris and quarterback Mac Jones both expressed confidence in the way Alabama and the SEC are handling safety protocols. Harris said that there's hand sanitizer "everywhere" at the football facility and that players test for COVID-19 "more than we practice."
"I feel comfortable here," Jones said, "and if I was at home, maybe I wouldn't even be as safe. I feel like that's easy for me. I've played football since I was 5 years old, and a lot my teammates are the same way. We want to play football. That's why we came here. We want to play football, and we want to win a national championship, and we want to see some of our players go on to the NFL. That's just what we want to do. Every day, we take risks, and it might be a little risky, but we feel comfortable and we feel safe."
Harris, who bypassed the NFL draft to return to school, was part of a coalition of players across the country who tweeted last week with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay. He called the decision by some conferences to call off the season "heartbreaking."
Harris said that players like himself want to "create value" by playing and that losing a season could affect his draft status.
"For a running back, age plays such a factor in the next step if you want to go into the NFL," he said. "They look at age so much nowadays. Like me, I came back and I'm already 22. If I come back another season and I'm 23, they'll probably use that against me."
Jones, who took over as the starting quarterback when Tua Tagovailoa was injured late last season, tweeted in support of the #WeWantToPlay movement as well and credited Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with being the start of it.
"We just wanted the people to hear our voice because, at the end of the day, the players are the ones playing, and we feel safe here, we feel comfortable," Jones said. "Obviously, there's a lot of unknowns, but we just wanted to get our voice out there. And obviously, we had a lot of guys that could have left last year and they came back, so we want to play for those guys. We want to play for the younger teammates, we want to play for the whole organization, the state of Alabama."