Steelers Minicamp: Willie Parker shows up, issues no demands
May 2, 2009 8:00 AM
Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
Steelers linebacker James Harrison jokes around and drops back to pass to Hines Ward during minicamp workouts yesterday.
Peter Diana / Post-Gazette
Steelers' number one draft pick Ziggy Hood (center) listens to instructions during minicamp workouts yesterday.
A helmet-less Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger makes his way past a pack of linemen during minicamp workouts yesterday at their practice facility on the South Side. Spring drills for the Super Bowl champions will run through tomorrow.
By Ed Bouchette Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Here's a twist on the Larry Foote holdout. The starting veteran will enter the final year of his contract and he usually plays only on first and second downs. He's 28, and the Steelers drafted a player at his position in the first round.
Unlike Foote, however, Willie Parker has not asked to be traded and he showed up on time for the start of the lone mandatory minicamp yesterday.
"That hasn't crossed my mind," Parker said about trying to force anything, including a contract extension, with the Steelers. "I am coming off a bad season, but it was a great season for the team. I just have to come out and get ready to play. It's not about holding out. I have to make the best decision, and the best decision is to be around the team and help out the best way possible."
Parker will earn $3,350,000 on the last year of his contract unless it is extended. Foote, also 28, was to earn $2,885,000 on the final year of his contract. Both usually come off the field on passing downs and both have recent first-round picks at their position -- linebacker Lawrence Timmons in 2007 and halfback Rashard Mendenhall in '08.
Yet, Foote has strongly told the Steelers he does not want to play for them anymore, and they are likely to release him next week. Parker does not want to go anywhere.
"That will take care of itself," he said of his contract situation. "The Steelers gave me a chance and I am proud and happy to be a Steeler. That's all I can say about that. Whatever happens, happens. As of right now, I am just getting ready for this season and have to make the best of it."
Parker made two Pro Bowls and had three consecutive seasons rushing for more than 1,200 yards until injuries took their toll last season.
He began the season by rushing for 243 yards in the first two games, then a knee injury in the third game sidelined him for 4Â 1/2 games. He missed a fifth game with a separated shoulder and finished with 791 yards.
However, he managed 116 against Cleveland and then opened the playoffs with 146 against San Diego, looking like the same old Fast Willie.
He took a new approach to his offseason training. Yesterday was the first time he has done any running since the Super Bowl.
"I feel great. I have been doing a lot of Pilates, stretching and things of that nature, to get my body back. I am feeling good. I am headed toward the right direction.
"I never did [Pilates] before. I am doing it to loosen up my body as a whole, my upper and lower body. It's kind of girly, but ..."
With Mendenhall's broken shoulder healed, the two were on the same field yesterday for the first time since Sept. 21. Perhaps they can give the Steelers the type of 1-2 punch at halfback they thought they would get when they drafted Mendenhall last year.
"Like I told him last year, push me and I'll push him," Parker said. "We are going to make the best of the situation. Let's help each other and go from there."
Parker did not want to compare his situation or how he's dealing with it to that of Foote's.
"I don't know his situation," Parker said. "I don't know how he feels. That is him. Everybody has different situations. He handled his situation the way he wanted. That is on Larry, the coaches and the organization."