Mendenhall injures hamstring as minicamp jinx strikes again
Sunday, May 04, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The minicamp jinx struck another first-round draft choice of the Steelers.

As with linebacker Lawrence Timmons last year, halfback Rashard Mendenhall came down with an injury after his first day of minicamp and did not practice yesterday.

Mendenhall has a hamstring injury, and coach Mike Tomlin believes the top rookies do have a problem with injuries in minicamps. Last year, Timmons left after one practice with a groin injury and No. 2 pick LaMarr Woodley came down with a hamstring injury in minicamp.

"It's becoming somewhat commonplace for some of these high-round draft picks for this type of situation to happen to them during minicamp weekend," Tomlin said.

Because they're in such demand by the pro scouts before the draft, it throws off their conditioning.

"The schedule that these guys are on is really not conducive to preparing them to come in to meet what waits on them at minicamp," Tomlin said. "They go to the combine, they go to their pro day, then they go on this city tour."

Mendenhall missed both practices yesterday and will miss the final minicamp practice today. Tomlin hopes he will return when the Steelers resume their spring workouts in two weeks. Timmons' injury last year caused him to miss all of the rest of the team's spring drills.

Big Ben checks out

Ben Roethlisberger also bowed out of minicamp practice, but for different reasons than Mendenhall.

He was excused after yesterday morning's practice to miss the afternoon session and the final one today.

"Ben had a prior personal issue that needed to be attended to," Tomlin said. "He was excused by me."

Clark honors Taylor

Ryan Clark wanted to switch jersey numbers this season, to wear No. 21 in honor of his murdered friend and former teammate, Sean Taylor.

The NFL said no, so Clark must stick with his No. 25 in games, but he has worn No. 21 in minicamp practices this weekend and will continue to do so throughout the 2008 season to honor Taylor.

"I tried to change my number this year, but the NFL wouldn't let me," said Clark, who overcame the loss of his spleen and gall bladder last season to return to the No. 1 spot at free safety this weekend.

"They kind of gave me the run-around about it -- if you do change a number after having it so long and there are jerseys made, you have to buy the other ones. I tried to do that, but they never really got back with me. It is a veteran rule, about having a number for so long. When you go to another team, it's a little different.

"So I'll just wear it in practice."

Clark, who joined the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent in 2006, played two seasons in Washington with Taylor. They both joined the Redskins in 2004 and became starters that season. Clark, as a free agent from the Giants, was the strong safety and Taylor, the Redskins first-round draft pick, was the free safety.

The two hit it off.

"I was a little bit older and I was the first guy he really played with," Clark said. "We became kind of close. He came to my house, met my parents. I met his fiance. Actually, his fiance and my wife are still really good friends."

Taylor was shot during a robbery in his Florida home Nov. 26, 2007, and died the next day. Clark took it hard.

"I did but his daughter's doing well, his fiance's doing well, so, how can I not be OK, you know what I mean? I just generally cared about him. To this day, I still think he was the best defensive back I ever played with, that I ever saw in person."

Clark was twice denied the opportunity to wear the No. 21. Complications from his sickle cell trait in the high altitude in Denver in October caused him to lose his spleen and end his season. A month later, all NFL players wore a No. 21 sticker on their helmets to honor Taylor.

"When everybody got the opportunity to wear the No. 21 on their helmet, I didn't," Clark said. "So it's kind of just my little tribute right now because I didn't get the opportunity."

Rookie signs

The Steelers signed another rookie wide receiver to take the spot of Purdue's Doren Bryant, who was released Friday after failing his physical Thursday.

Kevin Marion (5-10, 168) caught 44 passes for 485 yards and one touchdown in his college career at Wake Forest, including 18 for 192 yards as a senior in 2007. He was not drafted last weekend.