Steelers ace run-test
Monday, August 1, 2005
By BOB LABRIOLA
LATROBE, Pa. ? Coach Bill Cowher has said this will be a demanding and challenging training camp, and he looks to be keeping his promise.
Cowher?s camps always open with what he refers to as the run-test, a series of 14 40-yard dashes done under a pre-set time with 30-second breaks between each repetition. The starting time for 2005?s run-test was 2 p.m., which is hardly the coolest portion of the day.
According to the National Weather Service, the temperature was 88-degrees with a heat index of 90. It?s tiring just watching somebody else run in temperatures like that.
"Considering the heat and the weather, I was really pleased with everybody," said Cowher. "We held some guys out. Charlie Batch was held out because of his knee, and we?ve held out Jeff Hartings the past couple of years. And the running backs, given their circumstances with Jerome (Bettis) and Duce (Staley) and Verron (Haynes), we held them out of this as a medical decision. Everybody who participated did a great job."
Still, there were some guys who stood out for a variety of reasons. Willie Williams led his group though this run-test as a 34-year-old. Kendall Simmons smoked his competition while wearing a wrap on his surgically-repaired knee. And even though Casey Hampton wore nothing on his knee, he looked svelte by NFL nose tackle standards and completed an exercise that wasn?t designed with guys his size in mind.
"You look at the two guys coming back (from knee injuries) ? Kendall and Casey ? they were very, very impressive," said Cowher. "This was as light as Casey?s been since his rookie year, and you saw how Kendall finished that last sprint. That?s one focused player right now. That?s good to see, because that?s two big players we didn?t have last year, and they?re integral parts of our offensive and defensive lines."
But as the last group finished, the tone of training camp shifts to all football all the time. Everyone, players and coaches alike, sound like they?re looking forward to it.
"I?m excited to be out here," said Ben Roethlisberger. "I wasn?t really looking too forward to it until you saw other teams start reporting and you get that itch. Coming out here, being on the grass and seeing the guys and being around them really got the juices flowing, and it?s hard to believe year two is here already."
"We?re starting over, and it?s about coming up here and building that camaraderie, building that sense of team, and you can?t do it talking about it in an air conditioned room, you can?t do it running around in shorts," said Cowher. "This is where the foundation is laid. We?re going to be pushing each other, competing with each other and living with each other for the next three weeks. It?s going to get heated, it?s going to get testy. We need to be able to push each other.
"It can get testy out here, and I want it to be that. But they have to leave it on the field, and we come out onto this field there has to be a sense of purpose. There?s a very short period of time before we open up against Tennessee. And I will continue to remind him of that."
COWHER ON WARD
Following the run-test, Cowher addressed the situation of Hines Ward?s holdout.
"First of all, Hines Ward, I love him as a player, a great kid," said Cowher. "He?s very much respected on this football team, not only by the players but by the entire organization. It?s unfortunate that it has come to this. We?re hopeful that he?ll get here sometime in the near future, but we are going to move on with or without him. Hopefully this thing will rectify itself, but we?re going to proceed with the players who are here. I?m not going to answer questions about it on a day-to-day basis."
Cowher said that whether Ward will be fined for missing days of training camp will remain an in-house matter.
"This is an unfortunate circumstance, but we have to be prepared to move on," said Cowher, "and we will."
Cowher said Cedrick Wilson and Antwaan Randle El open camp as the starting wide receivers.
St. Vincent College?s campus opens at 2 p.m. on Tuesday with the Steelers Experience, the team?s interactive theme park, which runs until 6 p.m. on the baseball field adjacent to the football practice fields. Additionally, fans can tour the Steelers? Traveling Coca-Cola Great Hall, a mini version of the Coca-Cola Great Hall at Heinz Field.
The first practice open to fans will begin at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Nice to hear the run test went well and some of the players are looking good.