Promising RB Baron Batch looking to bounce back
Promising RB Baron Batch looking to bounce back
UPDATED JUN 13, 2012
Baron Batch was having one of those camps. The kind where unheralded rookies turn skepticism into belief.
In the span of 10 days last summer, the former Texas Tech running back evolved from little-known seventh-round pick into ''that guy.''
Then again, take on arguably the baddest guy in football - and hold your own - as Batch did during one memorable collision with linebacker James Harrison early in training camp and perceptions are bound to change.
One bad step silenced the buzz. Batch knew something was wrong the second his left knee buckled while making a cut during practice. The MRI revealed a torn ACL, ending his rookie season before it even began.
Leaning back at his locker following practice this week, the 24-year-old ran his fingers over the two-inch scar on his knee then glanced down at the even longer one on his surgically repaired ankle and just kind of smiled when asked if he ever considered doing something else with his life.
''I love to be able to overcome things,'' Batch said. ''The ankle when I was in college. The knee. It's cool to be able to get through stuff like that and just keep going.''
Even if he's not certain about the destination. Batch is part of a crowded running back picture that includes injured starter Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and fifth-round draft pick Chris Rainey, who in some ways is a slightly smaller, slightly faster version of Batch.
He tries not to think about the numbers game and how the next four months will play out. At the moment, he's simply thankful for the opportunity to play again.
''Obviously the guys we have on the roster are the guys we have on the roster,'' he said. ''I feel like I've just got to go in and earn a spot and prove my worth.''
Batch was well on his way at the time of his injury. He wasted little time turning heads, going helmet-to-helmet with Harrison during a ''back on backers'' pass protection drill. The goal is for the running back to keep a blitzing linebacker from reaching the quarterback. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Batch did more than that, lowering his head and smashing into the perennial All-Pro. The sound reverberated across the practice field. Even better, Harrison didn't get to the quarterback.
The play earned an excited whoop from coach Mike Tomlin, though Batch afterward dismissed it as just one play.
Maybe, but it's the kind of play that can fuel a comeback.
Following a sometimes grueling rehab, Batch is hoping to pick up where he left off last summer. He took another step in the process this week when running backs coach Kirby Wilson let Batch practice without the blue jersey he wore during organized training activities, the one that says basically ''keep off.''
''It's been a process,'' Batch said. ''It still is a process. I've had my ups and downs but it's nice to be back on the field.''
And in a way, Batch returns with an even better opportunity to make the team. Former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is gone, replaced by former Kansas City Chiefs coach Todd Haley, who is a bit more user-friendly with his running backs in the passing game.
The Chiefs had a running back finish with at least 40 receptions in each of Haley's two-plus seasons at the helm. At Arizona - where he served as offensive coordinator in 2007-08 - the Cardinals had at least one running back top 30 receptions each season.
A positive development for Batch, who caught 143 passes in the Red Raiders' trigger-happy offense.
''I'm the type of player I think if you ask me to do anything, I can do it regardless of whether it's catching a pass, picking up a blitz or running the ball outside or between the tackles,'' he said. ''At Texas Tech, I caught a lot of balls and that's definitely something I'm comfortable doing.''
It's impossible not to like his attitude and root for this kid.
Hall of Famer
I just started following him on Twitter. Good guy!
Batch's recovery remains on track
June 16, 2012
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Steelers running back Baron Batch writes and paints in his spare time. His hours in front of the keyboard and easel are a refuge from the consuming world of a being pro athlete.
Batch's latest painting is of a solitary, shadowy figure standing amidst a heavy rainstorm. The piece, finished last week, is about Batch's struggle to regain top form after a major knee injury ended his rookie season in August.
"Even though it's raining, it doesn't mean you have to stay in the house," said Batch, whose art work and popular blog can be found at baronbatch.com. "When I was thinking about it, I was thinking about going through these OTAs and this whole process. It's like I have to be out there whether the knee is hurting or not. It's saying, 'It will be all right.' My painting and my writing are mini-therapy for me."
In his blog, Batch wrote a long entry about his first day back on the field after getting cleared by team doctors. He wrote openly about the frustrations and fears in coming back after he tore the ACL in his left knee.
It's a weird feeling to all of a sudden just be told that you're ok to go compete with some of the best athletes in the world, and especially unsettling when you have been out of action for 9 months. But just like with other things in my life this was no different. Sometimes you just have to dive in.
Dive in with both feet, aware of the dagger like rocks that may or may not rest at the bottom of the lake, aware that you might not succeed and failure is a real possibility.
I wish I could tell you that I took my own advice on this.
Batch said feeding his creative side helps him deal with the pressures of being a pro athlete.
"That's always been something that's helped me," Batch said. "Football is an awesome game, but, at times, it can get frustrating. If you make it everything, it will really mess with you. To get away from it for a little bit and do something else and be able to come back and regroup each day is important for me. That's something I've always done."
On the field, Steelers coaches are counting on Batch to return to the form he showed in college at Texas Tech. The Steelers chose him with their seventh-round selection in the 2011 draft after he compiled 3,612 yards from scrimmage (2,501 rushing and 1,111 receiving) in the Red Raiders' spread offense.
The Steelers need an all-purpose back after they decided not to re-sign veteran Mewelde Moore, who filled that role the past four seasons.
"I've always said this: I'm a football player first before a running back," Batch said. "If I have to play special teams, I'll do that. I think that's something I can really contribute to with my skill set. With the offense, it will be whatever they feel comfortable letting me do and whatever I earn. Whatever happens, I'll be confident with what I'm doing."
Batch has come a long way since that OTA in May. He gradually has become more comfortable planting on his surgically repaired knee. There are still bad days, but he is confident that he will be strong enough mentally and physically to perform well at training camp and earn the coaches' trust.
"I have my days when I have frustrating times," he said. "I don't expect that to go away immediately. I couldn't do anything for six or seven months on my knee. I can't expect it to come back in a month. These OTAs and minicamps are crucial as far as getting confidence back in my knee.
"The most frustrating thing is, knowing you can do something and your body not doing it. That was a process I had to work through. I'm still working through it. I'm feeling a little better each week. I'm night and day from when we started three or four weeks ago. I think I'll be rolling well going into camp."
Batch has experience coming back after major injuries. He missed his freshman season at Texas Tech because of a fractured ankle, but came back to have three fine seasons. Now he hopes to do the same thing with the Steelers. Last year, Batch was a camp darling, showing off his quickness and running ability in Latrobe before the Aug. 10 knee injury. He'll have to do it again to earn a job on the 53-man roster this summer.
"It's crazy," he said. "It seemed like a long year. But I've been through other injuries before. A year goes by pretty quick. Training camp is creeping up. It's about that time. It just seems like yesterday when I was leaving Texas to come up here for the first time. I'm excited to get out there again and have an opportunity."
See more of Baron Batch's work on his blog baronbatch.com
Hall of Famer
If he stays healthy, he will make a big contribution this year.
I really want this kid to make it big here but the drafting of Rainey really makes the numbers work against him. I'd rather see him make it than Clay or even Dwyer who had all the opportunity in the world already to do something.
Rainey and Batch are two completely different backs...
Jamall Charles and Dexter McCluster are much closer body types than Batch and Rainey, but Haley found a way to use both...
Hall of Famer
What Baron showed in camp last year (and in college), pre-injury, was potential in every aspect of a RB's game ... running, pass receiving, and pass protection, and a strong competitive spirit. I don't think we see all four of those aspects in some of our other RB's, particularly pass protection and receiving. He's big and stong enough to run inside, and has enough speed to go outside.
Baron Batch (5'10" 210 lbs) should be a Mewelde Moore (5'11" 209 lbs) type. Chris Rainey (5'8" 180 lbs) should be a Stefan Logan (5'6" 180 lbs) type...if only Arians were creative enough to have used Logan on offense). That 30 pound difference between Batch/Moore and Rainey/Logan is pretty significant.
Originally Posted by Slapstick
The Rams' offense featuring weapons such as Marshall Faulk, Torrey Holt, and Isaac Bruce were known as "The Greatest Show on Turf"
The Steelers' offense featuring weapons such as Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant should be known as "The Greatest Show on Grass"
This has nothing at all to do with respective playing surfaces at the Edward Jones Dome vs. Heinz Field.
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