Key Steelers talk to reporters as they showed up for training camp. More as the day unfolds.
Max Starks, Willie Colon and Lawrence Timmons of the Steelers showed up early enough for us to file interview transcripts before the conditioning test. We’ll have more as the day progresses.
Expect camp to be different this year?
Yeah. Coach has come out and said this will be one of the toughest camps so that’s what we’re expecting now. We have a new coach, a new staff. It’s going to be a lot more intense camp because we are learning the plays and putting in a brand new offense so it’s going to be a little more tedious on the offensive side.
How much do you feel you’re fighting Willie Colon for a job?
As of right now I’m penciled in as a starter so I don’t feel like I’m fighting. It’s more of a maintenance thing, so I’m going to go in with the same approach I always have in the previous camps: Go out there and play my best ball and whatever coach feels is necessary for what’s best for this team, that’s what’s going to happen.
Do you have any more of an edge going into this camp than in the past?
I have more experience. I have 14 more games under my belt than I did the previous year. That’s probably the only advantage, just more experience on the field.
How different will the offense be?
The biggest thing is terminology. That’s been the biggest difference, from an offensive-line standpoint. We didn’t get into formations too much, like how many receivers are going to be in, I just know if I have a tight end next to me or if we have a running back in the backfield. They’ve spread them out a little bit more. It’s a similar offense and it’s something that we can work with. They reformed it from last year’s offense and brought in (Bruce Arians’) system also, so it’s going to be something we’re used to, but it’s just getting used to that terminology and the jargon that’s being tossed around on the field.
Do you anticipate a tougher camp than what you went through the last couple years?
I imagine so. It’s the coach’s first year so we don’t know what his style is. It’ll be more of the anxiety of wondering how he’s going to run it. We’ve already gotten a taste from the OTAs. If it’s anything like the OTAs, it’s going to be tougher than the Cowher camp.
Yeah. Everything’s high tempo. We’re going to get a lot of stuff done because we have a lot of stuff we have to accomplish and we have to get everybody together.
Can that be dangerous? Can it tire guys out?
I wouldn’t say that. We have a lot of numbers. He wants to see a lot of guys out there. He wants to see what everybody can do because in years past Coach Cowher already knew what his players were. He knew the older guys. So everybody’s on an even keel and I think it’s going to be spread out a lot more, evenly distributed.
Do you have to run today?
No, I don’t.
Was that an incentive to have guys work more in the spring?
Yeah, I think it was. It was one of those things to have guys come into the weight room and working out more, getting that face time and getting around the coaches and getting to know them. I think that was one of the incentives. We didn’t know it until it was almost done, that it was an opt out on it if you’d been there for enough workouts.
How many did you have under your belt?
I already had like 35 because I had been there since March 19.
Are you still going to run today?
No. I’m good. Sixteen 110s, nah. Okay, I’ll leave it up to the young guys.
What was the rule for the exemptions?
You had to be present for at least 44 workouts out of I think a possible 50.
How did you offseason go in Arizona and did you feel pushed by the fact the coaches are pushing Colon up the depth chart?
Arizona, every year I go out there for five weeks. It’s just me just getting myself focused and ready for the season. I really wasn’t thinking about Willie. I know he’s trying to fight for a position on our line. For me, it was just to go out there and practice what I do best and try and get better, hone my skills.
Are you playing for a contract this year?
Uh, ye-a-ah. I mean, this is my last year. Of course we always play for extensions, but if it’s something management feels is necessary than we’ll approach a contract, but this year I’m just trying to help my team be the best and hopefully make it out to Arizona.
Are you talking contract at all with the Steelers?
No, we haven’t even had talks yet. I think there’s one guy with long hair, kind of short looking that kind of has a little priority.
When will they talk to you?
That’s a good question. They haven’t talked to me. They said they were going to deal one by one, so I don’t know where I fall on the priority list.
Is this camp a big opportunity for you?
Definitely. It’s an opportunity for me to try to win a position. Where’s it’s going to be I don’t know.
Does it hurt you that you probably won’t be able to focus on one position?
No, it just means there are other jobs open for me if one shuts down.
Which position fits you best?
Whatever that pays, I really don’t know. I can’t even tell you, between tackle, guard and center. Whatever I can be effective at and make this team win, that’s what I’m willing to play.
Mike Tomlin said he’s keeping you at tackle. Does that make you happy to concentrate on one spot?
Yeah. That helps when you can just focus on one thing. I just try to be ready and not think too much about it. If they want me at tackle, I’ll be ready. If it’s center, I’ll be ready. I’ve been working a lot, so we’ll see.
Do you feel you’re in the top five?
Yeah, I do, honestly. I’ve been working hard, dropping the weight, concentrating on a lot of little things that will make me better. We’ll see. Competition is what the NFL’s all about.
How much weight have you dropped?
I dropped about 20; between 15 and 20.
Was that your decision?
They wanted me to drop a couple. I needed it so I’d look good on the beach.
What do you weigh?
I’m at 338. That’s where they wanted me to come in at. I feel good. I feel relaxed. I’m excited about the opportunity.
At what point did you start thinking you should be playing?
After the Cincinnati game, realizing that I can play at this level and be successful. I’ve never sat the bench and I don’t plan on coming into the NFL and doing the same.
Did that change your offseason?
Yeah. I worked a lot harder. Max Starks is a great veteran. He’s established himself. He’s big, he’s strong. I just want to be able to beat him out. It’s going to be a dogfight. I love Max and he knows how the job’s going to be.
Does it help you to have a new staff?
I plead the fifth.
Does Max have the advantage being the incumbent?
Of course. Obviously you grow a rapport with that five. He has a lot more games under his belt, a lot more big-time games under his belt, so he has a lot going in. It’s going to be a dogfight, so best of luck to me and him.
How relieved are you to get the contract done?
I can just concentrate on what I’m good at and do what I do.
Are you healthy?
Yes, I’m healthy, but I’m going to take it day to day, like not rushing anything, like rehabbing all the time, you know, just work out the necessary muscles that you do when you’re going full speed. I’m going to be smart about it.
Have you sprinted yet?
Yeah, I sprinted some. We did a bunch of sprints with (trainer) John Norwig.
Will you be cautious throughout camp?
I’m 100 percent. I’m not going to be cautious like that. I’m good to go. I’m just being smart about the whole situation.
How much did you fall behind by not being able to practice in the spring?
I think taking reps is a big thing. All I did was take mental reps but I think it was still a good thing. I sat back and let the players do their thing and I just looked at how they carried themselves and did the defense. I thought it was good for me to see.
So you don’t feel like you’re behind at all?
I feel, yeah, I’m not on the field, but I’m always in a meeting room with them, talking with the coaches. Even when they come back from doing a play I asked them questions.
Is it more important for you to learn the base defense or the third-down defense?
I just want to learn as much as possible because the more you know, the better off you’ll be.
Will you fill the void that Joey Porter left?
I don’t get into the comparison thing, but to be compared to a guy like him, he’s a great player. I know what type of player I am. That’s him and this is me. I’m not going into that.
Did you talk to Florida State players for advice on your first camp?
Oh, yeah. They said to go out there and play like you can. I know I can get through it.
Did you work much with James Harrison?
Yeah. I worked out with him some too, before this. We worked out at the facility. I worked out with him and a couple guys. We went out to eat sometimes. I think we’ll work out great together.
Did James tell you how important it is to be nice to the media?
(Room filled with laughter)
We’re big with James.
Oh, yeah. I believe that.
By Jim Wexell
23 July 2007