By Teresa Varley
Practice in early June is a far cry from what is going to come about in September when the football season starts, but for Rashard Mendenhall it's the perfect opportunity to prepare for what lies ahead.
Mendenhall is using each and every minute of the OTA's to his full advantage to get back in the swing of things. He missed most of his rookie season after suffering a season-ending broken shoulder against the Baltimore Ravens in September and never had the opportunity to gain the experience he hoped for.
"It's good to get back out here, get experience on field again and get comfortable going into camp," said Mendenhall. "I am just trying to get the experience I missed last year, all of the different plays, running situations. You need that so when it happens in game time you have seen it before."
From the time the Super Bowl ended Mendenhall has been preparing for the 2009 season. He didn't wait for OTA's, didn't wait for his teammates to join in. He got right to work, both studying the playbook and working out at the team's practice facility.
"You have that level of comfort so when you put on pads you are comfortable, you know the playbook," said Mendenhall. "You don't have to second guess anything. You can just play."
And play is something he can't wait to do. Mendenhall showed a few flashes early on, but that was it. His season was cut way too short and now he is making up for lost time and lack of repetitions.
"Being back out here and being more comfortable is what it's about," said Mendenhall. "Having been through a year you know what to expect and you are better at reacting."
"Now you are not thinking as much. You are able to react and you are comfortable. You don't second guess yourself. You are moving a lot quicker."
There is one thing, though, that OTA's can't prepare him for. They are non-contact practices so until training camp rolls around his shoulder won't get a true test as he won't be hit until then. He knows though with each and every day he is getting closer to not even thinking about those hits.
"That's a while from now," said Mendenhall. "Up until then every day you try to get as good as you can. I have been in the weight room trying to work at it so when the time comes you don't have to worry about it."