Baron Batch doesn't want to go into training camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers putting any extra added pressure on himself to make up for last season. Just like before he starts one of his paintings, Batch is hoping to start the 2013 season with a blank canvas.
Last year didn't go necessarily as planned for the Midland High and Texas Tech grad in his first full season in the NFL.
Coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered during preseason camp in 2011, Batch admitted he wasn't his old self and struggled because of it. He rushed for just 49 yards on 25 carries to go with four receptions for 31 yards in 12 games.
"There were times when my knee didn't necessarily feel the same," said Batch, a seventh-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2011. "Anybody coming off an ACL injury will tell you the same. When you're healthy and you know in your mind that you are, you're a different player."
He was released last November before spending three weeks on the Steelers practice squad. He rejoined the 53-man roster with three games remaining in the season, but an arm injury put him back on the injured reserve list.
This time when the Steelers report to training camp at Saint Vincent College, located 40 miles outside of Pittsburgh in Latrobe, Pa., on Friday, Batch's main goal is mainly to get better, which in turn will show the Steelers he belongs on the 53-man roster when the season begins Sept. 8 against Tennessee.
"The goal is always the same every training camp, find a way to get better," said the 25-year-old. "It's the first time I've been really confident and comfortable with the offense. Coming into this year I went through all the OTAs (organized team activities) and mini camps. It has always been my mentality to get better every day. The key for me is consistency. When you stack days like that on top of each other, it pays off. Consistency is one of the few things a player can control. You can't control injuries."
Going into this season, Batch will have his work cut out for him to make the 53-man roster thanks to the Steelers having plenty of competition at the running back position. Along with returning veterans Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman, the Steelers added veteran free agent LaRod Stephens-Howling and drafted Le'Veon Bell in the second round out of Michigan State.
Batch, though, is not fazed by the added competition in the locker room.
"It's pretty similar to when I was drafted or last year, there are always going to be challenges," he said. "Running back has probably the most competition out of any room. That's been the case since I started playing football. If you're not OK with competition, then you're never going to be the player that you should be. I love competing in whatever it might be, whether it's football, bowling, ping-pong or my art. All the running backs are talented and they all bring something to the table. I want to show them what I can do and help on special teams."
Speaking of his art, that is something that has recently gotten him some attention away from the football field.
Batch, who has had an interest in drawing since he was a kid, recently had his artwork displayed at the Lubbock Arts Festival, and just last week he sold 25 original pieces to a gallery in Lubbock.
His inspiration, he said, is life itself.
"Most of the concepts are of stories, things I've gone through or something that has been meaningful in my life," Batch said. "The are is always something that I connect with. (Art) is definitely something I want to do when I'm done playing. Unlike football, I could do it as long as I have working hands.
"For me, a lot of things outside of football whether it's the business sense of things, my painting or even the column that I wrote, the competitive side of me pours over everything I do and I try to give it my all."
Maybe it's that competitive side of Batch that will earn him a spot on an NFL roster this season and keep him there the entire season.