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Nick Saban tests negative for COVID-19 on Thursday, could he return to coach Saturday?

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Alabama coach Nick Saban may be able to return by the time the Crimson Tide take on the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday. Saban tested negative for COVID-19 on Thursday, leaving the door open for him to return to action much sooner than initially expected.

Saban, 68, tested positive for the virus Wednesday. Saban said he was asymptomatic. Alabama performed a follow-up test Thursday, which came back negative.

“Coach Saban was evaluated again today by Dr. Robinson. He continues to be asymptomatic and without fever. We are continuing to follow the SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Protocol for testing asymptomatic positives. A PCR test was repeated Thursday by the SEC appointed lab and was negative. For clarification, the initial positive result came from an outside lab we’ve used to supplement the SEC mandated testing. He will continue to remain in isolation and receive daily PCR tests. Should he have three negative PCR tests through the SEC appointed lab, each 24 hours apart, the initial test would be considered a false positive pursuant to SEC protocols and he would be allowed to return.”

The factors in the statement are important because they allow Saban to to be placed in the SEC’s protocol for asymptomatic positive tests. Under that policy, Saban would need two more negative tests — each given 24 hours apart — to return to action. Saban, however, would need to remain asymptomatic over that period.

With that timeline, Saban would take his third test Saturday.

Will Nick Saban return in time to coach Alabama on Saturday?

Whether Saban will be allowed to return in time to coach Saturday remains to be seen. It would depend on how quickly Alabama could get his third test turned around. Some tests require a day before results are available, others can produce rapid results.

Saban expressed that he wants to be in contact with his team on Saturday, and ESPN analyst Desmond Howard tweeted he believes Saban will coach Saturday’s game hours before Alabama’s statement.

Alabama likely wants Saban to return as well, meaning the university will do everything in its power to get Saban’s third test turned around as quickly as possible.

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