TUSCALOOSA — Terrell Lewis was so amped up for his first full-contact rep in more than a year he could hardly contain himself.
And neither, apparently, could Tommy Brown.
Without going into details other than to describe the experience as “interesting,” Alabama’s redshirt junior outside linebacker smiled as he recalled his opening play in Saturday’s preseason scrimmage, when the 6-foot-5 and 252-pound Lewis admittedly got “a little more physical than I have been” against Brown, a redshirt freshman offensive tackle in what was his first real action since the 2018 A-Day game.
"It was fun just being back out there and being in the mix and stuff, and getting that confidence back like, 'OK, you haven't done this in a while,'” Lewis said Monday. “But … it was just my first pass rush in a minute, so I kind of wanted to be a little more physical than I have been."
But what did that mean for Brown, the Crimson Tide’s second-team right tackle this preseason?
“Nah, Tommy's good,” Lewis said between chuckles, repeating it as if to assure himself of the fact as much as anybody else: “Tommy’s good.”
Making his first team-sanctioned media availability since early April 2018, Lewis joked and laughed with reporters while clutching what he playfully described as his “baby” — a team-issued football with a familiar Crimson swoosh on the front.
As evident by his smile, Lewis was just happy to be anywhere other than in the team training room, effectively a second home as he rehabbed from not one but two significant injuries that have cost him 25 games over the last two seasons.
Lewis missed 10 games in 2017 after breaking his right elbow during the season-opener against Florida State. Then, Lewis sustained a devastating ACL injury during summer workouts in early July that kept him out for all of 2018. Now, Lewis has declared himself 100-percent healthy and ready to finally get his chance to be Alabama’s next great pass rusher.
"I'm ready, but kind of like I've been saying, I'm kind of just taking everything day by day and kind of cherishing the fact that I get to be out there every day,” Lewis said. “I'm anxious, but in a sense I'm just ready every day I get to play football. So I don't take no day for granted."
Lewis isn’t the Tide’s only outside linebacker returning from a knee injury last year. Redshirt sophomore Chris Allen is also looking to show out this season after his preseason ACL injury sidelined him last season. Before that, the 6-4, 250-pound redshirt sophomore managed just six tackles in seven games as a true freshman in 2017.
But while Allen’s return is encouraging, Lewis’ highly anticipated comeback tour is one everyone around the Mal Moore Athletic Complex has been looking forward to for a while now — including Lewis himself.
"Terrell is ready to go,” Jennings said. “Terrell is ready to ball, … (and) he's gonna do that."
And he’s going to be needed.
Alabama’s outside linebackers unit is thin on quality experience, especially after Eyabi Anoma transferred to Houston.
Beyond expected starters Jennings and Lewis is mostly unproven potential, with Allen leading that charge followed by redshirt junior Ben Davis, redshirt freshman Jarez Parks and true freshmen King Mwikuta and Kevin Harris II.
Without trying to get caught up in the build-up to his first game since the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship against Georgia, Lewis has taken a wait-and-see approach to his next opportunity to tackle someone other than a teammate.
Still, given the all the months upon months of rehab spent waiting and wondering if or when that day would ever come again, Lewis admits Alabama’s Aug. 31 season-opener against Duke in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic from Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium will come with some mixed emotions, and plenty of long-anticipated big hits.
“I haven’t really thought that through yet, honestly. But I know I’ll be excited. I’ll probably have some pre-game jitters, stuff like that,” Lewis said. “But in a sense, I kind of got a preview of it when I went out there and warmed up for the Georgia game. I don’t know, I’m just, like I said, taking it day-by-day. When it happens it will come.
“But Atlanta, I feel like that’s my home field, so I don’t really get too much pre-game jitters when I’m there. I feel like I’ve been there more than Bryant-Denny.”