TUSCALOOSA — Tim Tebow knows what it's like to try to play through pain.
It's why the former Florida quarterback can sympathize with what Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa will be enduring Saturday should he play with a still-recovering high ankle sprain, as most of the college football world expects.
"I've done it. It's not fun; it's not easy," said Tebow, a SEC Network college football analyst with SEC Nation. "I'm sure he'll have some stuff to help him with the pain, but then it's all about (Saturday) afternoon. I think there are certain (times) as athletes where you just go into a place mentally where you know how important this game is to your team, to the season, to (winning a) championship, to your legacy, everything. And he'll be more worried about this game then he will the pain tomorrow afternoon."
Less than three weeks removed from undergoing a TightRope surgical procedure on his right ankle Oct. 20, Tagovailoa's status is called by Nick Saban a "game-time decision" to start Saturday against LSU.
Yet most — including LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and many within the Crimson Tide's own athletic facility — have little doubt that Tagovailoa will be behind center when the two SEC rivals square off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at an sure-to-be-crowded Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Even Alabama head coach Nick Saban acknowledged to ESPN on Wednesday there's a "good chance" Tagovailoa will play against LSU, so long as there are no further setbacks in the preceding days.
It's the second time in the last 11 months that Tagovailoa has gone through an accelerated rehabilitation process following a tightrope surgery, though last year's postseason recovery allowed him 27 days between surgery and his next game. Saturday will be Day 20 after the operation.
While Tagovailoa might play Saturday, and the injury occurred to his non-plant right leg, Tebow acknowledged it could still inhibit him in some capacity, even when utilizing simple zone-read or run-pass-option plays. Tebow, who's also left-handed like Tagovailoa, said he expects the Tide to run more plays with the running back to the left of the quarterback to lessen the potential pressure on his right ankle.
"I'd say that'd be something to look for in the game if he's not as healthy as some people would think, the 'back will be more on his left and make it easier for the zone fake on his right ankle," Tebow said. "But still it's difficult. Any time you have a high-ankle it's not fun. It is painful. I'm intrigued to see how well he can do in ... the few plays where he really has to step up or run for a third-and-three in a crucial fourth-quarter play."
Tebow also cited the mental and physical obstacles a quarterback can experience when attempting to play through a still-recovering lower-body injury.
"The problem is he might not feel like it limits him until he gets in the game, and all of a sudden, a few plays in, 'Oh gosh, wow, now I can't take those steps, now I'm worried about stepping up,'" Tebow said. "'Now I'm changing a little bit of the way I play so my timing and my rhythm's off because I realize in the first couple of plays that I'm not the same guy that I was. So I have to adapt.'
"Because if I'm used to stepping up in the pocket and being able to throw on the run like Tua does all the time from a lot of different arm angles, now he can't do it with the same comfort, and how does he adapt? I think that's such a big key mentally for him being able to handle that."
Alex Byington is the Montgomery Advertiser's Alabama beat writer, and he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @_AlexByington.