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Old 07-29-2007, 12:40 PM   #1

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Default Hard-core Practice?!

WRs, DBs turn up the heat
Saturday, July 28, 2007

LATROBE, Pa. ? It had a little bit of everything that Coach Mike Tomlin wants in a training camp practice. It was physical, intense, competitive, and it also walked the fine line of practice etiquette. On two occasions, however, it definitely crossed it.

The afternoon following a night practice at Latrobe Stadium where the pass offense made a series of big plays, there were two big hits on wide receiver Willie Reid and a scuffle between Tyrone Carter and Nate Washington.

"It's competitive, but that's what training camp is about," said Tomlin. "You'd much rather say, 'whoa,' than 'sic'em.' So we're having to say, 'whoa,' a little bit, but the big thing is that we're professional about it and leave it on the grass. They're taking that approach."

Actually, the whole series of events could have started because Washington taunted Carter over the course of about three successive plays. On the second, Washington caught a pass, got up and flipped the ball to Carter, which would be a penalty in a game. On the next play, Carter and Washington scuffled.

Shortly after that, Reid caught a pass and was running through the secondary as receivers and running backs do in drills such as this. At one point, strength and conditioning coach Garrett Giemont blew the whistle to signal the end of the play, and then Ryan Clark put a shoulder into Reid and knocked him down. Hitting after the whistle also is a penalty.

A few plays later, Reid caught another pass and was flattened immediately by Anthony Smith, who has been a physical presence during every practice of this camp. Smith's hit was neither dirty nor late, but did it come close to violating the unwritten rules of practice etiquette?

"It's football," said Tomlin. "The big thing is that they have respect for each other. I realize that at times tempers are going to flare. That's part of it. Part of us building this football team is understanding and controlling our emotions, too, because they're going to flare on Sundays in the fall. That's part of it.

"It's also showing your ability take some blows and catch some balls and bounce up. Willie Reid has proven to us that he doesn't have any fear, that he can catch balls in traffic. He's distinguishing himself because of some of the things that are happening. But we have to leave it on the grass; it can't get out of hand. It's a fine line, I know. We're attempting to walk it."

Hines Ward believed that fine line was trampled. He said it to the defensive backs at the time on the field, and he reiterated his stance afterward to the media when asked about it.

"It's chicken(bleep). That's what it is. Chicken(bleep)," said Ward. "We're talking about practice, and you go out there and hurt somebody? I understand we're going at it hard, and you want to hit somebody else, but we have to practice smart. You lose somebody off a great hit, come on. Willie is somebody who's trying to make this team. If he were to get hurt and lose his ACL, who's going to be the stupid person then. You just have to play smart, man.

"Willie is coming off a foot injury. This is his opportunity to make an impression. Yes, we know he's tough; he took a great hit. If he gets hurt, or something like that, we lose somebody who could be a vital part of our offense and special teams. You have to be smart about it. I understand we want to hit each other, but at the same time you have to practice smart."

Determining right or wrong will fall to Tomlin and his staff, but this is another example of the long-time battle that has raged between receivers and defensive backs. It can start with one side or the other preening after making a play, then it's spiced with some trash-talk. Add in the heat of the day and the intensity of the session, and things can escalate quickly.

"It's been happening all day," said Ward. "You do it one time, but you don't just keep letting it happen and happen. If the coaches aren't going to say nothing about it, than hell, maybe a player has to say something about it. I mean, there were a couple of scuffles out there, and in the heat of the war, you're going to get scuffles like that. At the same time, let's be smart. We're on the same team. We're not the opponent. We need all of us to be in this together. We have to practice that way."

For his part, Clark apologized for hitting Reid after the whistle, and he understood why Ward said what he did.

"Hines is defending his team, saying we're kind of wrong, kind of dirty, and so we might be," said Clark. "That's why we play defense, not offense. I tell him, if I was wrong, I apologize, please forgive me. I'm willing to accept being wrong and take the repercussions for it. And, you know, we're going to play tomorrow."

STEELERS NOTES: Santonio Holmes was removed from the physically unable to perform list, and he practiced with the team for the first time on Saturday afternoon. Said Tomlin, "He's going to go and do everything tomorrow, so he can catch up. All of those guys who are coming back (from injury), we'll bring them back bit by bit. Verron (Haynes) did a little more today. He'll do some more tomorrow. We just want to make sure we don't have any steps backward as we move forward." ? Tomlin also said that Lawrence Timmons (groin) is still day-to-day as is rookie tight end Matt Spaeth (shoulder). "I wouldn't necessarily call it hurt ? he's dealing with something. We'll look at it tonight and see if he can go tomorrow ? Sunday's practice is scheduled for 2:55 p.m. and is open to the public.

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Old 07-29-2007, 12:41 PM   #2
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Default Re: Hard-core Practice?!

Closing - duplicate thread:

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