LSU cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon and running back Spencer Ware returned to practice Tuesday after being held out of last week’s game against Auburn as disciplinary action.
Coach Les Miles made the announcement Tuesday night after the top-ranked Tigers returned to practice for the first time since the 45-10 victory on Saturday. LSU has an open date this week before visiting No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 5.
“If they continue to do the things that they’re doing, we would anticipate that they would play (against the Crimson Tide),” Miles said. “We’re not going to live in deadlines in any way. We’re practicing and preparing them to play and operating along that way. We’re going to practice them and plan on using them.”
Reports that the players would be suspended for last week’s game surfaced last Wednesday, but Miles wouldn’t confirm them at the time. He referred only to an internal team matter.
LSU didn’t confirm the disciplinary action until shortly before kickoff Saturday.
“I don’t recall that I ever suspended them to you guys. Am I right?” Miles said. “So I guess what I’m saying to you is we’ve operated as this discipline would be internal and we would handle it in that way, and our guys have returned to practice.”
When asked what term besides suspension he would use for the disciplinary action, Miles said, “We withheld them from play.”
Several media reports said the players tested positive for banned substances, and a one-game absence would be consistent with a second failed test under LSU’s written substance abuse policy.
When Miles was asked if the players’ return to practice was his decision, he said, “It’s certainly one in conjunction with the rules and regulations of the school and the institution. They fall very comfortably under those guidelines.”
No players were available for interviews Tuesday, but they are expected to be available after practice Wednesday.
“They enjoyed being with their team,” Miles said of the trio. “They worked hard.”
All three players have been significant contributors. Mathieu has been the biggest playmaker on defense, Simon has played a significant amount in the Tigers nickel defense and some in their base defense, and Ware is the team’s leading rusher.
“I think those three guys will do their part and do their share (against Alabama),” Miles said.
Several teammates contributed in the absence of the three disciplined players. Senior Ron Brooks started in Mathieu’s place and returned an interception 28 yards for a third-quarter touchdown.
Senior Derrick Bryant saw playing time because of the trickle-down effect in the secondary and made his first career sack. Freshman Kenny Hilliard, who had just five carries during the first seven games, carried 10 times for 65 yards and two touchdowns against Auburn.
“I’ve always felt pretty comfortable with whoever we put on the field,” Miles said. “When I said (last week) I felt like our team would be ably manned in the absence of players, I meant that. I feel like these guys will return to action, and I’m looking forward to it.”
When asked if the disciplined players had returned to their former spots on the depth chart, Miles said, “I haven’t checked the depth chart lately.”
Miles explained what the Tigers are focused on during practice this week before returning to a game-week routine Monday.
“We’re taking some time to get our guys healthy,” he said. “We’re getting some rest, rehabilitation, weight and strength development. We’re also reviewing our scheme, tendencies that might need to be broken as we go forward. And obviously we’re studying our opponent. We had a short practice. It was as specific as we could get toward Alabama.
“We’re looking at technique work. We need to kind of brush up some of those techniques.”
Miles said the Tigers would practice again Wednesday and Thursday and do weight-lifting and strength work Friday before taking the weekend off. … He said center P.J. Lonergan, who has missed the past two games because of an ankle injury, practiced “the whole time.” Miles added that Lonergan could have played against Auburn and is expected to play against Alabama. … Miles said defensive end Kendrick Adams is “a little nicked, but he’ll be fine.” He said Adams wasn’t involved in any snaps Tuesday, but, “He’s much improved and he’ll be getting snaps here pretty quick.”