Bud Dupree remembers what life was like for him a year ago when the Steelers began their mandatory veteran minicamp. As a rookie he was thrown into it full speed ahead, without any idea of what to expect.
He approached it like a champ, giving it his all, learning everything he could, while at the same time making the mistakes rookies are bound to make.
This year, though, things are a lot different.
"My second year I just know what to expect, I know what is going to happen," said Dupree, the Steelers No. 1 draft pick last year. "It makes me feel a lot more comfortable going out there and doing things."
The offseason work last year was his life blood. From OTAs to minicamp, he held on to every word the coaches said, spent every minute in his playbook, and went through mental reps continuously. This year it is still valuable for the young linebacker, but for a different reason,
"I am able to go out there and refresh my memory," said Dupree. "I am able to see how I improved, see how I picked up all the plays, see how my skill set has improved. Everything like that is really valuable for me. It all helped me get ready for this minicamp."
He isn't the only one able to see the improvement. The coaching staff always looks for a big step from rookie year to year two, and in Dupree it is showing.
"I am encouraged by him," said defensive coordinator Keith Butler. "When we went to see him before we drafted him, I talked to him a lot about defense, what we expected from him, from our outside linebackers. They had done a lot of stuff at Kentucky that was similar to what we had done, had copied a lot of stuff that we had done defensively. Some of the things he was doing at the time, he was going to be doing here too.
"The concepts he had to learn, the overall defense, he got an idea about but he was just trying to learn his position. When you come into the league as a young player the first thing you want to do is figure out what I am doing, then I will learn what everybody else is doing. He is going to transition into that stage knowing what everyone else on defense is doing, so he'll know where his help is. As a consequence he will be able to stay in position to make more plays."
And that is perfect in his book. Dupree played in 16 games last year, starting five, and finished with 26 tackles and four sacks. Those are numbers he wants to see soar this year.
"I am going to do well for myself," said Dupree. "I want to make a tremendous leap and go out and play as hard as I can. I am just training hard, going over the plays with Coach (Joey) Porter and Butler to make sure I know what I am doing, that I have everything down. I don't want to make any of the same mistakes that I made last year.
"Joey can help you with so much insight of how things are going to happen from a player perspective. He will be telling me things that will happen. Sometimes a coach that never played football will tell you something that they think will happen, but Joey knows exactly what is going to happen."