Mendenhall practices with Steelers
By Scott Brown
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Rashard Mendenhall practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, marking the first time the Steelers' first-round pick has taken part in drills since straining his hamstring during minicamp at the beginning of May.
"I feel pretty good," the rookie running back said after the practice.
The Steelers will monitor Mendenhall closely throughout organized team activities, which run through next month, and will likely restrict how much he does.
The last thing they want is for the injury to turn into a lingering one and something that hampers Mendenhall during training camp, which starts in late July.
"You want to practice, and you want to prove to your teammates and coaches what you can do," Mendenhall said, "but at the same time it don't always work like that, so you've got to play things smart."
Mendenhall, the 23rd overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, said the practices will be beneficial even if he is not allowed to participate in all of the drills. They will give him time to learn the offense in advance of training camp.
"You want to play instinctive," said Mendenhall, who is expected to complement Pro Bowl running back Willie Parker this season, "and that's knowing the playbook and being confident in what you're doing."
The current practices are voluntary, but Marvel Smith would have a good excuse not to attend even if they were mandatory.
Smith and his wife are expecting their first child any day now, and he is in California with her.
Also missing practice for personal reasons Wednesday were wide receiver Santonio Holmes and center Sean Mahan.
Among those who didn't practice yesterday because of injuries were defensive ends Aaron Smith (arm) and Ryan McBean (foot) and guards Kendall Simmons (shoulder) and Chris Kemoeatu (hamstring).
Kemoeatu appears to be the frontrunner to take over at left guard for Alan Faneca, who signed with the Jets as a free agent.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, however, said the team won't rush any of the players who are dealing with injuries, especially since the start of the regular season is still more than three months away.
"He's not going to be what we need him to be today," Tomlin said of Kemoeatu.
Black and gold fan
Bryant McFadden, like many of his teammates, has gotten caught up in the excitement of the Penguins' postseason run.
The fourth-year cornerback, however, said he was a fan of the team long before it made the Stanley Cup final.
"I used to like the Penguins back in the day when they had (Mario) Lemieux and (Jaromir) Jagr," McFadden said. "I had the video game, so I always used to pick the Penguins because I like the colors."
The Steelers will hold their final practice of the week today. They will have nine more practices before training camp, with the next three scheduled for May 27-29.