Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt on Friday defended his position to reinstate defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who was involved in a fight in July on the South Side.
Sheard pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge, was ordered to pay medical bills for the victim and write a letter of apology to him. Charges of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and criminal mischief were withdrawn by prosecutors.
Sheard, 21, a senior, was suspended from the team when his case was being resolved in the judicial system, but he will not miss any regular season games.
"Hear me loud and clear please," Wannstedt said at the opening of his media day news conference at the UPMC facility on the South Side. "After gathering all of the information and the legal system took its course, we are very comfortable with the decision we made considering Jabaal.
"You all know that we have had players in the past, as every schools does, off the field, on the field, where it hasn't worked out. But my responsibility to the university and these kids is to be consistent and fair with the facts and handle it accordingly. And that's all I have to say about that."
Wannstedt was asked if he received additional information about the case that did not come to light that influenced his decision. He said yes, but did not want to divulge those details.
"I really just don't feel like it would accomplish anything by belaboring the point," he said.
Sheard and Edward Parker of Stanton Heights got into a fight July 18 on East Carson Street. Sheard did not stop fighting when police arrived and tossed Parker through the glass door of La Fond Galleries.
Sheard (6 feet 4, 240 pounds) is entering his third year as a starter. He had 42 tackles, five sacks and a team-high 12 quarterback hurries last season. Sheard and fellow senior end Greg Romeus form the top bookend tandem in the Big East Conference.
Sheard, a native of Hollywood, Fla., said he learned a valuable lesson.
"It was a horrible experience," he said. "I'm happy to be back out here with my team. I'm happy to play football. I've been grateful to play ever since high school. Any day, you can get hurt and it can get taken away from you. I had a couple of injuries [last year]. I got scared then and I didn't think I'd be able to play football anymore. This is a great opportunity to be able to be back out here with my teammates."
Sheard could not be a part of any team activities during his two-week suspension. He worked out in the evenings when the rest of the team went through early morning workouts with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.
"I came in at 5 o'clock in the afternoon and worked out on my own," Sheard said. "I tried to keep up with their workout and probably pushed myself harder because I knew I was away and I had a few extra hours to work harder.
"I missed out on a lot, just the bonding of the team. I missed the fun in the morning. Other than getting up at 6 in the morning, being around them in the morning wakes you up and it's fun."
Training camp begins today and Wannstedt said Sheard will be subject to further disciplinary action, although he did not make public what the discipline would be.
"There have been things, team-wide, and personal recognition-wise, things that he was to take part in and did not," Wannstedt said. "During training camp, he will continue on with the team discipline."
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com or 412-263-1230. First Published August 7, 2010 4:00 AM