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Thursday, October 24
Coach Saban assumes James left the team

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Free safety Damien James, touted by LSU as a cornerstone of a defense dubbed the "James Gang,'' has apparently quit the team.

Coach Nick Saban said Wednesday he assumes free safety Damien James has quit the team, but he hasn't heard anything from James all week.

James, a senior starter, missed practice for the third straight day. Saban said sophomore cornerback Randall Gay will be the starter at free safety Saturday at Auburn.

James, who missed his only start this year Sept. 1 at Virginia Tech for disciplinary reasons, was one of the defensive stars last season in LSU's 31-20 win over Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.

Saban said he hasn't spoken with James since LSU's 38-14 victory Saturday over South Carolina.

"I did not suspend him,'' he said. "I did not have words with him. Nothing.''

James could not be reached for comment.

"We're going to support the guy every way we can, help the guy every way we can, but obviously he's missed now three days of practice, and I haven't talked to him, so I'm assuming that he's quit the team,'' Saban said. "That's just an assumption on my part, since I haven't talked to him.

"There may be other issues that are involved in this, but those are not for public information or discussion, and since I haven't talked to him I don't know what those issues are.''

Linebacker Bradie James (no relation) said he and the Tigers will support him and welcome him back to the team if he returns, but he admitted the situation has been a distraction for the team.

"Without a doubt, we'll always be for the players,'' he said. "And if D.J. wanted to come back -- you know, open arms. But he has to also realize that what he's done, it wasn't just a decision for himself; he has affected all of us, and we've got to let him know about that.''

Saban, who attended the funeral of his mother-in-law at midday and returned in time for practice, was increasingly pointed and defensive the longer he talked about James.

"I've been coaching for 30 years, or close to it,'' Saban said, "and I have never had a guy on a team that is having success, who is a successful player, ever quit a team in the middle of the season. So you figure it out.''

Meeting with reporters after the Wednesday practice as he does every week, Saban answered two questions about James' status but quickly cut off any others.

"I'm trying to coach the guys that are on the team that are going to play in the game,'' Saban said. "We've got a lot of good football players on this team, and I'm here to tell you, it's time to move on. All right? It's time to move on. You got it? It's time to move on. I ain't answering any more questions about it.

"Guy didn't come to practice for three days. I've got nothing else to say about it. We're moving on. You got me? Moving on. I don't care if he's around school ... I don't care. We're moving on. You got it?''