MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Jaylen Waddle was supposed to be done. So was Landon Dickerson.
Both are marquee Alabama players. Both suffered what seemed like season-ending injuries this year — Waddle broke his ankle against Tennessee, while Dickerson suffered a knee injury against Florida.
Both played in Monday's 52-24 win over Ohio State for the national championship, and in the case of Waddle, Alabama needed him.
In the second half, Alabama lost two receivers: Heisman winner DeVonta Smith (dislocated finger) and the second-leading pass-catcher John Metchie (undisclosed injury). Waddle came off the bench and finished with three catches for 34 yards. Two of his catches came in the second half.
"He probably played a little bit more there in the third quarter than what we anticipated," Saban said Tuesday morning. "We wanted 10 or 12 plays. He was medically cleared to play. We knew he wasn't 100 percent. He knows he's not 100 percent. But he thought he could contribute to the team.
Waddle was cleared to return to practice six days before the national championship game. Saban said he would allow Waddle to play if he felt like he could play, after testing his ankle in pregame warmups.
"I think he was 100 percent fast exploding, straight line," Saban said. "Had a difficult time cutting off of that foot and slowing down. Those are the two things, that decelerating and cutting off of that foot, were the two issues for him."
Because of that, Alabama had a limited plan for Waddle.
"We really had plays that he could run where he could run in a straight line and didn't have to do a lot of cutting, didn't have to do a lot of route running and changing direction, doing some of the things he's so good at, which is going in motion, running bubbles, orbits, all that kind of stuff," Saban said.
Saban said he has suffered the same injury as Waddle.
"So, I know the difficulties coming back from that," Saban said. "You're healed but your ankle is so stiff, it's difficult to sort of get the flexibility and the flexion back so you can explode like you want to, especially when you drop your weight on that foot, which comes when you're slowing down, trying to make a cut."
Dickerson played only at the end of the game, when Alabama was lined up to take the final snaps and down the ball to run out the clock. In that case, he wouldn't be required to do anything than snap the ball to the quarterback.
Dickerson suffered his injury Dec. 19 and needed surgery. The game was 23 days later.
"Most people can't even walk after the time period where he's at," Alabama quarterback Mac Jones said. "He's worked his butt off, too, in the last couple weeks to get back on the field. He kind of joked with me, he's like, 'I'm playing.' He texts me every morning, 7 in the morning: 'I'm playing, Mac, I'm playing.'"
Dickerson began his college career at Florida State. He wound up as a first-team All-American at Alabama, winning the Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center.
"Landon has been through a lot," Jones said. "Transferred schools, took a risk to come to Alabama. A lot of people said that Landon was going to be done with the injuries that he had, but he just keeps fighting. And I love Landon Dickerson."