STEELERS HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLINMINI-CAMP PRACTICE MAY 3, 2008
It's been a good weekend thus far. We got four practices in and I like the way that the men are bouncing around. The inclement weather didn't slow us down from a spirit perspective today; we went inside and got some good work done. I will answer any questions that you have.
How is Rashard Mendenhall doing?
It is a precaution right now. He has somewhat of a hamstring. You know it is becoming somewhat commonplace for some of these high round draft picks for this type of situation to happen to them during mini-camp. It happened to Lawrence (Timmons) last year and it happened to (LaMarr) Woodley last year. The schedule that these guys are on is really not conducive for preparing these guys to come in and meet what waits for them in terms of the mini-camp. They go through the combine, they go through their pro day and then they go on this city tour where they are visiting respective teams and so forth; they have functions they need to go to. When they are in college they spend a lot of time in winter conditioning programs getting ready to play spring ball. It is an awkward time for these guys because they really are not part of a team as they prepare for the draft. They miss a little bit of that and those things happen. But like last year, it is short-term misery; it is not going to define them. They can sit back and take some mental reps and then we can move forward.
Will Mendenhall come back this weekend?
No, we are going to hold him out the rest of this weekend.
What about the OTAs?
No, I would hope not. Again, we found out Lawrence's injury turned out to be something other than a hamstring. At this point this appears to just be a hamstring strain so we expect him to come back with full participation so we will see how we will proceed with the offseason.
Where was Ben (Roethlisberger) this afternoon?
Ben had a prior personal issue that needed to be attended to. He was excused by me. Darnell Stapleton also missed yesterday but you guys missed that. He was back today. I can't believe you guys missed Darnell.
Will Ben be here tomorrow?
No, he will not.
Are all draft picks prone to hamstring injuries?
No, just in recent years the guys that are picked high, even prior to me getting here the guys that are projected to go high in the draft have a lot of obligations. You guys see them leading up to the draft; interview issues and events, and really it throws off their workout regimens. Really they are not a part of a team at that time so a real lack of a structure puts them in harms way. It is less than ideal but that is the reality of it. They are talented young people so it is not something that they cannot overcome.
Was Woodley's injury a hamstring last year?
Last year Ryan Clark missed the second half of the season. Any thoughts on his comeback thus far?
If you know Ryan, you do not count him out of anything. He has a great spirit, he is a great competitor, he has passion and he loves to play the game of football. He is in the process of marching back. We probably will not know until we go out and play football. We like where he is now and I am sure that he is happy to be back out there with his teammates; his teammates are glad to have him. He is a great leader for this team and we are just taking it day by day.
Is there any reason to believe that he will not be ready for contact in camp?
Do you think it is important to see Willie Parker out there tutoring Mendenhall?
It is probably not as big a deal as you guys would like to make it. It is a part of being professional. It was done for guys; I'm sure it was done for Willie when he came in. We have a great chemistry here in that regard. There is an unwritten rule that this is professional football and we are trying to be world champions. Any help or assistance that we can get from anyone, even if he is a young man, a rookie, not only do we welcome that, but we encourage that, and we are going to do everything that we can to help him. Maybe that is not something that sells in this world of professional sports, but that is what team football is all about.
Are there any players stepping up to catch your eye?
Again, it is football in shorts. I am glad to see them; we are getting some good things done from a tempo standpoint. However, you really cannot measure a man until there is contact. That's an element of the game that you can't deny.
What role do you foresee happening with Dennis Dixon?
First of all, he's got to make it. That's the reality of it. We had a fifth-round pick last year who didn't make our team. He has to continue to grow and progress and learn from the other men. It seems like he's developing a good rapport with the veteran players at his position. He's got a nice demeanor about him, but we won't get a full evaluation of him until we see him play, and play 11-on-11 football. We got some good things done this weekend in terms of working on his mechanics. He spent a lot of time in the shotgun formation at Oregon. He got under center some here, worked on his drops, delivered the ball some. We got more done this weekend with than we anticipated.
Can he help you out at other positions?
Again, first and foremost he has to show that he can make this team.
Your impressions of Marvel Smith in his first time on the field since having surgery on his back?
When you feel good your spirits are uplifted, and all reports are that Marvel is feeling as good as he's felt in a long time. It's the sacrifice these men make to play this game. A lot of times you play in less than ideal circumstances in terms of health – it's part of it. But when you deal with those situations like he has and you come through the other side and you're feeling good, you really appreciate it. That's what you see from him.
Did Marvel ever let on last year how much he was hurting?
That's not Marvel. He knows what's at stake. He's a left tackle in the National Football League, and he knows the responsibility that comes with that. He doesn't skirt away from those responsibilities; he doesn't want to let anyone down. Like you would expect from him, he downplayed it as much as he could.
Does putting Rashard in the backfield with Parker allow Willie to get more open as a receiver?
It really varies from week to week how people want to attack. We have kind of seen it all. The potential of what we are able to do in the backfield is balanced, that is why we are excited about adding a young man like Rashard. But those things will play itself out as we see what his strengths and weakness are, how he fits into the offense, and how we progress as a football team.
Was it planned for Willie to only practice one session today?
That has been our plan. Remember last time we practice together I said that we would err on the side of caution. He comes out and practices in the morning and the morning is critical for us from an instruction standpoint. We have an extended individual session where we work on skill development and technique. Therefore we feel that the morning is more important.
Where are Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley in their development this year?
We're looking for what we look for from all second-year players, which is to take a giant step. You do. It's been proven over time that guys show the ability to take a giant step from year one to year two. Familiarity is an issue, an understand of what's required, an understanding of what lies ahead are all factors in them doing that. They've shown thus far that they're capable of doing that. We like where they are. The athleticism and talent that attracted us to them originally are showing through. They have to continue to move forward, and I'm pleased with what those guys have been doing in the offseason program. Their faces are in the building, they're working at it. They're learning how to become professionals.