Signed, Sealed, & Delivered: News & Notes
Signed, Sealed, & Delivered: TRAINING CAMP news & notes
By BOB LABRIOLA
By signing his rookie contract before the official opening of training camp, Rashard Mendenhall was able to get himself onto the field, and once he was there he immediately
began showing why he was a firstround draft pick.
Up until then, Steelers fans had to access YouTube for a glimpse of Mendenhall performing his specialty, but thanks to the five-year contract that reportedly included
bonuses of $6.83 million, guarantees of $7.125 million and total cash value of $9.855 million with an escalator that makes it worth $12.55 million, they were able to monitor
his progress from the first practice in pads on Monday, July 28.
“We’re looking forward to a great training camp,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II, “and we’re very happy that he’s here on time and ready to go.”
Mendenhall became the Steelers’ fourth straight No. 1 pick to sign his rookie contract in time for the first workout in pads.
“Being picked in the first round you expect to contribute, but that’s what training camp is for — to get in here and start to learn my role,” said Mendenhall. “You don’t want
any distractions, and you don’t want to be a distraction either, and to get the contract squared away I can come here and do what I need to do.”
Coach Mike Tomlin is willing to allow Mendenhall’s progress to dictate what role the rookie running back might have in 2008. The team doesn’t need Mendenhall to be a starter, but it nevertheless will need him in some capacity. The most obvious obstacle in his way will be learning the offense, but Mendenhall’s on-time arrival here should prevent him from falling behind.
“I don’t think (the learning) will be too much of a problem,” said Mendenhall. “There’s a huge playbook, but we went over a lot of it during OTAs, and they installed day by day, and I’ve been doing pretty well with it up to this point. I feel pretty good about the playbook.”
There is a good bit of expectation that follows every No. 1 pick into his rookie season, and Mendenhall understands there’s going to be a large dose of that. But there also is anticipation over the various ways Mendenhall might find a way to contribute in 2008.
Maybe in a tandem backfield alongside Parker. “I think that would work out real well,” said
Mendenhall. “It would be great to be back there with him. He’s a Pro Bowl-caliber running back, and he’s been nothing but professional since I got here, so I’d look forward to that.”
Or maybe as a kickoff returner. “I did it all through high school, and I was very comfortable in doing that. When I got back there during the OTAs, I felt real confident
and comfortable doing it. If they want me to return kicks, I’ll be able to do it.”
But whatever he does, Mendenhall’s history indicates he will do it in a physical manner.
“I don’t really consider myself strictly a power runner,” said Mendenhall. “How I run is just all based on reaction — whatever I feel like will work at the time is what I do. A lot of times when you’re in a box, the only way to get out is to go through somebody. If it’s between you and somebody else, you don’t want it to be you, so you explode into them. It’s a lot of different things, but it’s all reaction at the end of the day.”
Through the first week of this camp, Mendenhall showed improvement, often from the start of a drill to its end. This was most apparent during the first session of backs-on backers, a high-energy exercise that asks a running back to step up and stop a blitzing linebacker.
James Harrison ran over Mendenhall on the rookie’s initial try at the drill, but then on his second try, Mendenhall almost battled starter LaMarr Woodley to a stalemate, and then on his final three repetitions, Mendenhall handled Larry Foote, Anthony Trucks and Andre Frazier.
Then as the week continued, Mendenhall flashed some receiving skills, showed good burst running the ball and never demurred from the physical aspects of any drill, including
subsequent sessions of backs-on-backers.
“I’m not going to pat him on the back just yet,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “He’s a competitor. We expect big things from him.”
Re: Signed, Sealed, & Delivered: News & Notes
Sounds really promising. I'm not on the side to have him supplant FWP this year, but I am really, really liking what this offense looks like in two years and for the forseeable future.