Roethlisberger and the Steelers quietly going about business during NFL's lockout
Emmanuel Sanders, Charlie Batch, coach Mike Tomlin, Willie Colon and Tria Essex were on hand at Ben Roethlisberger's youth football camp Monday at Seneca Valley.
Share with others:
Turn on the NFL Network or ESPN just about any day of the week, and it's likely that you'll see a report on one of the many player-organized team workouts taking place in various NFL cities.
Whether it's Drew Brees paying the way for teammates to join him in New Orleans for their workouts, or No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton throwing passes to his new teammates in Carolina, many players are eager to let their team and their fans know that they're staying in shape during the owner-imposed lockout.
That hasn't been the case for the Steelers, who have done their best to stay out of the spotlight this spring. That's the way quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wants it.
"To me, it's not about letting the world know we're doing it," Roethlisberger said Monday morning from his youth football camp, sponsored by Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and #1 Cochran, along with Premier Partners, McDonald's and Bridgestone at Seneca Valley High School. "As long as we know we're doing and we're doing it, that's all that matters. That's just how we operate and how I operate. I've gotten some letters from people, I've heard some things like, 'Why aren't you working out?' Well, we are working out. We've probably worked out more than most teams. It's just that we choose to keep it quiet."
Roethlisberger was joined at his youth camp by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner and several teammates, including offensive linemen Willie Colon and Trai Essex, receiver Emmanuel Sanders and reserve quarterback Charlie Batch.
Roethlisberger did not disclose how many times the players have worked out on their own, but Sanders said the number is three. Sanders said Roethlisberger will send out mass text messages to players to let them know when and where to show up for the local workouts.
The practices have been for offensive players only. Many defensive players are working out in Florida under the supervision of private coaches and trainers.
"It's going great," Roethlisberger said. "We've worked out, linemen, running backs, tight ends, everybody. All of the offense. It's gone really well. We've had some good progress, just to kind of refresh people's memories on audible calls or no-huddle calls, little things like that."
Sanders, who is coming off surgeries on both feet this spring, attended two of the practices. They were designed to cover many of the details coaches usually address during the organized team activities in June in a typical NFL year.
"It was good to get back out there and see the guys, communicate and be in the huddle with Ben and running plays," said Sanders, who caught 28 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie last season. "It's too bad we can't do it right now, that we can't have OTAs, but I'm looking forward to the season and this [lockout] ending."
The players have been locked out by the owners since March 12. The NFL and its players union, the NFL Players Association, have been discussing a new collective bargaining agreement in earnest for the past two weeks. Roethlisberger said he is being kept abreast of the labor negotiations by Batch, who is on the executive committee of the players union.
"You have to have confidence and faith in the leaders of both sides, that they're going to do something that's fair for both parties," Roethlisberger said. "You just have to put your faith in those guys. For us, it's Charlie Batch. We know something fair will get done."
Batch would not answer questions Monday about the lockout or the player-organized workouts that he has attended.
This is the fifth year that Roethlisberger has played host to a football camp for youths. Last year Roethlisberger asked Tomlin to play host while he dealt with the allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Roethlisberger was relaxed Monday as he went from group to group at his camp, working with the boys and girls who ranged in age from 7-14. He also spoke to the campers about having a positive attitude before they played games of 7-on-7, with Roethlisberger and his coaching staff playing quarterback all the time.
"I want to be an influence on these kids," Roethlisberger said. "I want to see the smile on their faces when they catch a pass or high five them when they catch a touchdown. I'm sweating more than they are running from field to field. To me, it's so awesome to have this opportunity. Even if you teach them one little thing, or any little thing that makes them smile, that's what it's all about."
Roethlisberger disclosed before the interview that he would not field questions on his scheduled July 23 wedding to Ashley Harlan.
Sanders had screws inserted into the fifth metatarsal bone in each foot this spring. He fractured the bone in his right foot in the first half of Super Bowl XLV against the Packers and did not return. It was revealed after the Super Bowl that there was a slight fracture in the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, too. Team doctors encouraged him to have a screw inserted in his left foot to prevent another injury.
Sanders is working out with a local trainer in Wexford and was to run for the first time Monday. He expected to be running full speed in two weeks and to be ready for the scheduled start of training camp in late July.
"It ended up working out perfect," Sanders said. "We gave it a little bit more time because there were no OTAs this year. Honestly, I think I can run full speed right now. They just want to make sure it's 100 percent."
While Batch and Roethlisberger did not offer up much on the lockout, Sanders is optimistic about a new deal getting done before training camp.
"I'm confident they're going to work a deal out," he said. "Everyone is doing what they need to do to get the deal worked out. It's crunch time right now. Hopefully, in the next week or two weeks we'll have a decision."
Sanders said Batch keeps the players in the loop by sending out emails about the negotiations. Sanders said the NFLPA did a good job of sending the message to players to watch their spending. He said he is not feeling a financial pinch.
"The beautiful thing is I got blessed to go in the third round," Sanders said. "That's a very nice little paycheck. I'm not suffering at all. Not only that, I'm not buying all kinds of cars and all kinds of houses. I'm kind of saving my money because, at the end of the day, the NFL stands for Not For Long.
"I understand that. I understand that I'm not going to be getting these checks the rest of my life. I have to put away because some day I want to have a family. We also get checks from the NFLPA. I guess it's a lockout fund. That helps the free agents and the guys who don't have as much money as they're supposed to. Everything is good. We're just waiting for the deal to get worked out."
First Published June 21, 2011 12:00 am