OK, Wards' comments at the end are just too funny!....
Steelers Training Camp Notebook: Backup Essex in front again
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Steelers replaced their injured starting left guard on the first day of training camp practices with a tackle.
Trai Essex, who has filled in at left and right tackle in games for injured players the past three years with the Steelers, got a chance to run with the first team at left guard in both practices yesterday.
Chris Kemoeatu, who is replacing departed Alan Faneca at the position, opened camp on the physically unable to perform list because of a slight weakness in a triceps.
"Trai stepped up," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He came in in excellent shape. He's a veteran player, came in great shape, ran well, an opportunity presented itself to give him some reps with the first unit at left guard. I thought he took advantage of it. ... I threw a bone to a man who came in in great shape and ran well."
Essex is trying to hold onto a roster spot with the addition of fourth-round pick Tony Hills.
Three players could not finish practice because of injuries. Safety Anthony Smith and cornerback Bryant McFadden have groin injuries from the afternoon drill. Tomlin described their status as "day to day." Rookie wide receiver Kevin Marion, injured in the morning, has a sprained knee that requires further evaluation.
Ownership issues on sideline
The continuing saga of what is to become of Steelers ownership might be gripping for some fans and the media.
Players, for the most part, don't give a hoot.
Here are typical reactions from a few questions tossed out about whether Tomlin was correct and that the issue could "possibly" become a distraction for the team.
"No, I don't have nothing to do with that," offensive tackle Willie Colon said. "Just pay me, that's all I care about."
And this from wide receiver Santonio Holmes: "I doubt if that's any worry on anybody's mind right now. We came in to play football; whatever happens inside the organization, happens."
Reid starts hot
The morning practice featured some feistiness on the part of Willie Reid, who enters his third season fighting for a roster spot as a return man/wide receiver. Literally fighting, it turned out.
Reid caught a pass over the middle and then was popped by Smith. Reid did not take kindly to the hit and threw the ball at Smith. The two had to be separated by teammates.
Later, Reid and linebacker Andre Frazier got into it and again had to be separated by teammates. Sometimes, it takes several practices for a couple of fights to break out in training camp, but Reid was involved in two in the first drill at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe.
"Those guys didn't like the way Willie was blocking them and Willie didn't like the way he got hit," veteran receiver Hines Ward said. "But it's training camp, it's all fun. You just have to be smart about it. 'Willie, you can't do that in the game so don't do it out there, don't throw the ball at other players.' That's the lesson for the day, you can't throw the ball at people. You just have to find a way to get him back, retaliate and do it in an orderly fashion where you're not hindering your team with a penalty. It's a learning process ... I talked to Willie about it."
Kevin Greene has returned to help work with the Steelers' linebackers for the first week of training camp. Greene was here two summers ago for about 10 days in Bill Cowher's final camp.
Greene, who turns 46 Thursday, played three of his 15 NFL seasons with the Steelers (1993-95). He retired after the 1999 season and his 160 sacks are the most by any linebacker since the sack became an official statistic in the NFL in '82. His total is behind only defensive ends Bruce Smith and Reggie White.
Harrison makes noise
Linebacker James Harrison, voted the team's MVP last season, put a thunderous hit on 6-foot-7 tight end Matt Spaeth in the afternoon.
"When James doesn't want to be blocked," Tomlin said, "it's very difficult to block him. He's a Pro Bowl player for a reason. He's a great player and had a good day."
Ward on Hampton
Ward, trying to say how valuable overweight nose tackle Casey Hampton is to the team: "At the end of the day, we know what Casey will bring to the table."