Inactives make the best of it
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A similar reality jars Charlie Batch and Kendall Simmons as the pregame moments dwindle nearer to kickoff each Steelers game day.
"When I see the guys getting dressed before games," Batch said of when the sting irritates him most.
For Simmons, it is "when they do the introductions and I see that I'm not coming out with the guys. That reality hits hard, man. It isn't easy to take."
The undeniable fact is that both are members of this football team headed to Super Bowl XLIII.The Steelers IRPlayerPosition
Kyle ClementDefensive line
Jonathan DekkerTight end
Rashard MendenhallRunning back
Kendall SimmonsRight guard
Marvel SmithLeft tackle
Greg WarrenLong snapper
Just as certain, though, is that neither will play in Tampa. Backup quarterback Batch injured his collarbone in the preseason and has missed all year, while Simmons, the starting right guard, ruptured a heel tendon in the fourth game and was placed on injured reserve soon thereafter.
The feeling is familiar for some other pivotal players: punter Daniel Sepulveda, who has missed all year with a knee injury, tackle Marvel Smith, who was lost in Week 5 with a lower-back injury, rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall, who hurt his shoulder in the fourth week and long-snapper Greg Warren, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 7.
Undoubtedly it is tough to stay positive, difficult to look at the glass as half-full for a player caught in a position where his teammates -- who are healthy -- are playing in one of the biggest games of their lives, while he and the injured few are relegated to a sideline view.
"But I know that I have to stay positive for these younger guys on the [offensive] line," Simmons said. "I know that some of the younger guys look up to guys like me, and now, all I can do is be there for them; all I can do is help them like I have been helping them all year.
"Definitely, I want to be out there, I have wanted to be out there every game, but being injured you just kind of have to accept it and take a role of helping with the younger guys."
It is the type of role that Batch has been able to grasp, as he understands the intricacies of the offense better than most and takes a hands-on approach on the sideline.
"I'm not going to sit there and get down about everything. So, mentally, I'm able to help if the quarterbacks have a question because I do understand the game plan," Batch said. "It may be small, but, yeah, I do feel like I can contribute in that way, by helping the other quarterbacks.
"I do feel like I have had a part in this success because of what I did before I was injured and now, after the injury, I am making sure I stay involved with everything."
The way Sepulveda has been treated throughout his injury has made it easy for him to never feel as if he has been an outsider.
"From the moment I got hurt, the reaction I got from everyone in the organization has been nothing but positive," he said. "Everyone had my long-term career in perspective from the very beginning. It wasn't a selfish thing where they said, 'We need you this year, we might take chance and compromise things so that you can play this year.'
"That was out of the question. They made it known that they wanted me around for a long time and missing this year was what was best. That was awesome to know the way this organization cared about me."
And maybe it was a premonition -- or more accurately, just a lucky guess -- but Sepulveda remembers the first conversation he had after doctors informed him in late July that he would soon be having surgery on the torn ligament in his right knee. It was a surgery that would cost him this season, so he felt obliged to pick up the phone and ring his parents in Texas. On the other end of the line was his mother, Susan.
"It was the first thing my mom told me when I got hurt. I called her and she said, 'You know y'all are going to go to the Super Bowl now that you're not playing, right?' " Sepulveda said, with a hearty laugh. "It was like she knew that was my luck, that we would go on and do this during the year that I was hurt."
Such a huge missed opportunity, huh?
"Well," Sepulveda said, "The way I'm looking at it, I'll just know what to expect the next time we go."
First Published January 25, 2009 12:00 am