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After open-heart surgery, COVID-19 rules no issue for Steve Sarkisian

Less than two months removed from open heart surgery, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said Tuesday he is being extra cautious around the team’s practice facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t know if there’s anybody that abides by the COVID rules that we have here more than me,” Sarkisian said during a video news conference, his first with reporters since Citrus Bowl media day in December.

The school announced in early July that Sarkisian, 46, had undergone heart surgery in Birmingham for a congenital cardiovascular anomaly.

The American College of Cardiology wrote in June that, “there is concern that patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) may likewise be at increased risk for severe infection, as they are known to have higher risk for complications with viral illnesses including respiratory syncytial virus and influenza.”

Sarkisian, in his second season as the Tide’s offensive coordinator, credited coach Nick Saban for promoting extensive annual physicals among his coaches. That process led to the detection and surgery by Dr. John Richardson.

“I think what comes out of it is, we never know how healthy, how sick — we can feel great, I felt great — and at the end of the day, I had to have open heart surgery,” Sarkisian said. “But I think all in all, I feel great, I feel healthy. It allowed me to lose some weight, so I feel good about that, a little lighter on my feet at practice.”

Sarkisian, on the heels of Nick Saban making another call Monday for mask-wearing, downplayed any inconvenience caused by the added health protocols this year.

“There are some pretty simple rules that if we all just buy into — and that’s all I’ve been trying to do — life really isn’t that difficult,” he said. “Wear a mask. Wash your hands and watch your distance from the next person. At that point, if we could all just do those things, like my life is pretty comfortable.

“I’m not one to go into really crowded places and have a bunch of people around me without masks on, and I don’t know if they’ve washed their hands. I try to use hand sanitizer and wash my hands. I try to keep my mask on when I’m around other people. Even when I’m around the players, sometimes it’s uncomfortable being on the field with my mask on but I know it’s the best thing for me and it’s the best thing for them.

“I don’t know if it’s a public service announcement or not but if we could all just do that, things would be a lot simpler and a lot easier for all of us.”

Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mikerodak.

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