Claypool ready to make an impression

You have just one chance to make a first impression, but in football you normally get ample opportunities to make a good impression.

Until this year, that is.

For a rookie, things like the offseason program, OTAs and minicamps are the first step. And then there is training camp. And the biggest aspect is the preseason, where they can truly show how they stack up against NFL competition.

This year, the opportunities are limited to training camp practices, and only 14 padded practices to be exact. While that might concern some, it doesn't bother Steelers second-round pick Chase Claypool, the wide receiver out of Notre Dame who plans on using every opportunity to make an impression.

"I think you can make an impression in more than just the practices alone," said Claypool during a Zoom call on Thursday. "It's how you carry yourself. You have to find ways to maximize how you make an impression, whether it's in the weight room, or just knowing what to do, even spending extra time with them. That is my mindset right now."

Claypool has been touted for his physicality in both the passing game and as a blocker in the run game. It's something he takes pride in, and while he might not be able to show it off to his full extent without preseason games, he will do it in practice every chance he gets.

"I think I can do that within my running, in terms of releasing downfield," said Claypool. "I think I can release pretty aggressively and attack the ball. Of course, on run plays you don't want to be too aggressive because it's your teammates, but you can definitely have a play or two where you can come down hill and show your physicality."

There is no doubt he will get plenty of advice from his fellow receivers on how to approach practice, just as he received advice, guidance and a warm welcome from them in the offseason, even if it was virtually or via text. He will also receiver pointers from Ben Roethlisberger, who he had an opportunity to catch a few passes from in the offseason and said that was 'cool.'

"We are in a group chat and I was able to talk to them here and a little bit," said Claypool. "I have felt really welcomed here because all of the receivers have given me their advice, their tricks. They have helped me learn the playbook. All of the receivers, JuJu (Smith-Schuster), James Washington, Diontae (Johnson), all those guys have really been helpful for my transition here. No one in particular I have gravitated toward and I think that is a good thing.

"We were in the virtual team meetings, we were in our little receivers and offensive meeting, we could always speak up and say something. Ben would always chip in and give us his point on a play, what he wants to see from us. That was pretty helpful in terms of what we should do and what should be expected."

The expectations aren't just high on the field, but off the field as well this year. With COVID-19 looming over all aspects of society, the players, especially younger ones, must be disciplined and cautious at all times.

"It's not tough at all," said Claypool. "I think it's pretty straight-forward. They lay out the guidelines pretty clearly. All you need to do is follow them. It's a pretty smooth transition. There is a lot on the line. As long as you understand that then the transition is pretty easy.

"Coach (Mike) Tomlin's main point for me and the team is 'don't be the guy.' Don't be the guy who messes up in a pretty simple situation where it's easy not to mess up. You just follow the steps and the things they laid out for you and you will be fine. Just don't be the guy."

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