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Simmons answers so-called challenges
Simmons answers so-called challenges
Puts hammerlock on right guard spot
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Kendall Simmons never will lick diabetes. That's not the case with those who thought they had a chance at taking his job.
That so-called opening at right guard in the Steelers' offensive line is so, so yesterday. Simmons has whipped all comers.
It might have been the figment of someone's fantasy. The story goes that Chris Kemoeatu, a third-year guard, would give Simmons some heavy competition in training camp. Or that Willie Colon, if he did not beat Max Starks at right tackle, would surely get a chance at right guard.
The fact of the matter is, there has been no more competition for the No. 1 job at right guard than at, say, left guard. It's not so much the lack of push from behind as it is Simmons has put the job under lock and key. That's not surprising considering he was the starting right guard since the Steelers drafted him in the first round in 2002 (except for the 2004 season he missed with a torn ACL).
"I don't see it as there being any competition, to be honest with you," Simmons said yesterday.
Larry Zierlein, his new offensive line coach, agrees. It was Zierlein who, unsolicited, sang Simmons' praises in the spring, and he's still working on that tune 10 days into training camp.
"That's the way he ought to look at it," Zierlein said when told Simmons verbally dismissed all challengers.
"We're going to give a whole lot of guys a shot at this before this thing is over, but I'm a Kendall fan and I want him to do well."
Simmons has maintained his starting job against steeper competition in the past. After a good first season, he was discovered to have adult-onset diabetes just before his second training camp began in 2003. He started all 16 games that season as he struggled to adjust to his new health condition and the difficulties it presents him.
A year later, off to a great training camp start, his ACL popped, ending his season. Later, he and his wife, Celesta, went through the emotional pain of a miscarriage with her first pregnancy.
It has become a cliche with football players, but Simmons truly is in the best condition of his life. He lost 12 pounds and weighs 305, with a notably flatter stomach. He also has learned more and more how to deal with his diabetes.
"You'll still have those ups and downs, that's part of the disease I have," Simmons said. "You can't whip it, that's not going to happen, but you have to know how to adjust quickly when things happen. Every year I get better at that.
"I'll be fine. I just stay on top of it. That will not be a problem."
Of course, there always is something, and this year it's dealing with whether or not the Steelers will extend his contract, which enters its last season. Simmons is in the same boat as that "other" guard, Alan Faneca, although he chose to deal with it differently. He really does not want to know much of what's going on.
"He knows what his plan is and how he approaches things," Simmons said of Faneca. "I try to approach things in a way that I need to be better for me."
There has been parrying among the two sides (Monroeville native Eric Metz represents him) but no real negotiations to extend Simmons' contract. The Steelers have a handful of players entering their final years and are trying to figure out how much money they might have to use on an extended contract or two. They believe there is time left to do so before their self-appointed deadline of Sept. 9, the first regular-season game.
Simmons wants to stay.
"I would. I understand how it works," he said. "If something's going to get done, it will be before [preseason] is over with. If not, I know how it works during the season.
"If that's the case, I'll try to have really good film and have a whole lot of people be interested."
Based on the film so far, that won't be a problem.