Steelers rookies appreciate history
By Scott Brown
Thursday, June 5, 2008
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It may have had the feel of a school field trip, minus the chaperones.
Wide receiver Limas Sweed, however, called the day away from class that the Steelers' rookies enjoyed earlier this week something else.
"Experience of a lifetime," Sweed said Wednesday after an OTA practice.
All NFL rookies are required to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, as part of their orientation, something commissioner Roger Goodell made mandatory this year.
For the Steelers' rookies that meant boarding a Canton-bound bus Monday at 7 a.m. and not returning to Pittsburgh until late in the afternoon. In between, the players were given a guided tour of the Hall of Fame, and they studied something other than the Xs and Os that have consumed them during offseason practices.
"I think it's an awesome thing," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of rookie orientation now including a trip to the Hall of Fame. "I think if one guy gains a little bit of respect about what those who have come before them have contributed to this game and the fact that he's a part of something special, then it's a great event."
Tomlin, who visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time last year, added, "I walked away somewhat in awe of some of the things that have happened in this game and with a level of appreciation for being a part of it."
Former NFL wide receiver Michael Irvin, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year, suggested to Goodell that young players would come away with similar feelings of appreciation if they visited Canton.
Goodell agreed, which, in a roundabout way, led to Sweed reading about the records wide receiver Jerry Rice set during his incomparable career and Dennis Dixon learning that a couple of quarterbacks who came long before he did at the University of Oregon had been immortalized.
"I read a little bit on Dan Fouts and a little bit on Norm Van Brocklin," Dixon said. "I was surprised to see two former Oregon quarterbacks were in there."
The players may also have been surprised at how recent some of the history in the Hall of Fame is.
The jersey and pants Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wore when he set the NFL's single-game rushing record with 296 yards against the Chargers last year are in the Hall of Fame. Seeing them was particularly inspiring for Sweed since he played against Peterson when the two were in college and knows him.
The former Texas star also showed Monday that he knows his history.
When the players' guide asked if anyone knew which Super Bowl was the first the Steelers played in, Sweed gave the correct answer (Super Bowl IX).
He won a coffee cup that has a picture of the Hall of Fame building on it, and it is serving as much more than a memento from his first trip to Canton.
"It's something that I put in my locker," Sweed said, "and every day I use it as inspiration."