Tomlin sets standard
By John Harris
Monday, July 28, 2008
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin finally has spoken.
If one of Tomlin's players can't, or won't, report to training camp in decent shape, he will make an example of him.
Case in point: Sunday's eye-opening decision to place four-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Casey Hampton on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.
If publicly humiliating Hampton doesn't get the attention of the rest of the Steelers -- especially the veterans -- nothing will.
Hampton has reported to training camp out of shape before. This time, his reputation caught up with him.
Other than a bruised ego this morning, Hampton isn't suffering from an injury.
The PUP list generally is designated for players who are recovering from injury. If a player begins training camp on the PUP list, he can be moved to the active roster at any time. A player who begins the regular season on the PUP list must sit out the first six games.
Hampton was the only player who couldn't finish yesterday's timed conditioning run, consisting of eight 100-yard sprints followed by jogging back 50 yards and walking the final 50 yards accompanied by a running clock.
"He's overweight and not conditioned enough to participate at this point," Tomlin said.
So much for Tomlin cutting some slack to players, particularly proven players such as Hampton.
"I'll take a look at his conditioning," Tomlin said of Hampton, generously listed at 6-foot-1, 325 pounds. "That'll be the ultimate determining factor. Of course, those things aren't done in a matter of days."
Hampton's response to Tomlin's decision isn't surprising to those who know this confident player.
"First game in September (against Houston in the opener), I'm going to be out there -- believe that," Hampton said. "Y'all made a big deal out of it. I know what I've got to do. I went to a Pro Bowl last year."
Still, Tomlin's decisive and prompt action against Hampton likely brought a smile to the face of team president Art Rooney II, who asked Tomlin during his interview process about the coach's decision to bench veteran cornerback Fred Smoot when the coach was the Minnesota Vikings' defensive coordinator.
Taking down safety Anthony Smith a few pegs for a blown coverage against the New England Patriots last season didn't require a lot of guts on Tomlin's part. Smith was a young defensive back who ran his mouth and didn't back up his tough talk on the field.
Hampton is different.
He's a proven NFL defender, who despite his constant battle of the bulge, was a Pro Bowl reserve in 2007. Tomlin putting Hampton on the PUP list is a fist to Hampton's ample solar plexus.
"I'm sure he won't wake up (today) and be ready to go," said Tomlin, who indicated that Hampton also will be disciplined by the coaching staff. "He's got to go through a process, and we've got to take him through that process. We'll just live day-to-day with it until he's at an acceptable level of conditioning and weight."
Tomlin was asked if he thought that Hampton missing the final 12 organized team activities (OTAs) contributed to his lack of conditioning.
"There are guys who weren't there that came in great condition," Tomlin said. "I don't think there's a correlation. It's about coming to camp ready to play football. Unfortunately, he's not at this point.
"Different people have different struggles. Conditioning and weight appear to be one of his. It's something that he's battled, and I'm sure that he'll continue to battle."
Hampton spoke with reporters about his offseason training prior to yesterday's conditioning run.
"I had some things going on at the crib," Hampton said. "I had to take care of some family stuff.
"I did a little running and stuff like that on my own."
Very little, apparently.