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Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby thesteelhammer » Fri Aug 08, 2008 7:35 am

Guess we'll find out tonight?
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08221/902763-66.stm?cmpid=steelers.xml

Parker must prove leg has healed; Mendenhall makes debut
Friday, August 08, 2008
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Peter Diana/Post-GazetteWillie Parker, tired of questions about the leg he injured last season, gets chance to answer them all tonight.Perhaps Willie Parker tonight can answer a question without moving his lips. It takes practice, and he certainly has had plenty of that through the spring and the first two weeks of training camp.

Despite all that work, the same old query kept coming.

"Every day, man," Parker said before he and his Steelers teammates open their preseason schedule against the Philadelphia Eagles at 7:30 p.m. today at Heinz Field. "I keep talking about this leg. I'm tired about talking about this leg."

The fibula in that leg, the right one, was broken Dec. 20 on some poor turf in St. Louis. It came in the 15th game of the season, on his first carry, his 321st of the season. It would be the last weekend he led the NFL in rushing.

He has looked every bit like the old Fast Willie in training camp, but he finally gets a chance to show the home audience that he has healed sufficiently. He may not get much of a chance, though, because neither he nor the first-team offense will play much, a long-standing NFL tradition in the first preseason game.

And then will come the next most popular question about Parker: How will he and rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall be used?

It's not common to have two such pedigrees in the same backfield because teams normally don't draft a back in the first round if they already have one who has rushed for more than 1,200 yards in each of the past three seasons, set a Super Bowl record and made the past two Pro Bowls.

"Yeah, but when you come off an injury, things kind of change," Parker said. "You have to come and show a lot of people you were the same back you were before you got injured. That's my mindset."

Kirby Wilson, who coaches the running backs, called Parker about the situation in April when it appeared they might draft a runner on the first round.

"Out of respect to our Pro Bowl player, I communicated with him very early on to let him know, No. 1 we appreciate him and No. 2 you'll always draft the best player who fits your team, and that's what we did and we're happy that we did it."

Parker did not have to prove anything last summer. He did not play in the first two preseason games because of minor swelling in his left knee. He ran 10 times in the third game and caught three passes, then exited the final preseason game after one play and no carries.

Tonight, he will step into a game with Mendenhall for the first time as the coaches develop a plan how to use them. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians suggested he might use both in a pony backfield on occasion, but it's more likely when one's in the game the other will be on the sideline.

"We haven't really practiced it," Parker said of the pony, "but I think we'll see a lot of it this year. It'll make it interesting, especially on the pass plays."

The presence of Mendenhall may free Parker to do other things, such as play on third downs, something he wants to do. He also wants to carry on the goal line.

"You're talking about a guy who's very capable in all areas," Wilson said.

"He'll get his opportunities and then, when the time comes, the coaching staff will sit back and say what's best for our offense."

Mendenhall did not perform well on four of his five tries in the goal-line drill the past week, although he scored once. While Mike Tomlin noted he had to run harder in those situations, the coach has been mostly complimentary of his rookie.

"It's a natural reaction to the overall intensity of the drill," Tomlin said. "It's something all rookies have to go through.

"Actually, he has been impressive every time we expose him to something new. Friday night will be new and different for him.

"I like his attention to detail. He's a very coachable guy, a good worker, he's a relatively quick learner. All indications of things we focus on have been positive."

So, the Steelers enter a new era tonight with what could be two elite running backs, Fast Willie and Rocket Rashard. How, when and how often each of them plays might not be known for awhile.

"Right now it's too early," Wilson said. "We want to get some games under our belts to see what we have. But we feel real good about it right now.

"That's the beauty of coaching that position, [the backs] generally decide who plays. It's a real good situation."

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Re: Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby Nel » Fri Aug 08, 2008 4:03 pm

Having had a broken leg myself and having been an athlete, it is my opinion that in general it is usually not a serious or debilitating type of physical injury for a young person, and that Willie has had plenty of time to recover. He may have some psychological issues about it. The question of his injury not bother me very much, from a physical standpoint.

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Re: Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby thesteelhammer » Fri Aug 08, 2008 7:06 pm

Sometimes the speed doesn't return, and Willie is all about speed.

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Re: Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby Nel » Fri Aug 08, 2008 9:04 pm

I suppose Willie's speed returning might depend on how severe the break was, and I am not familiar with that.

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Re: Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby thesteelhammer » Fri Aug 08, 2008 9:06 pm

Doesn't look to be a problem from the limited action he got tonight.

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Re: Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby Nel » Fri Aug 08, 2008 9:10 pm

That's great about Willie; I could not watch the game so thanks for the detailed updates in the Game thread.

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Re: Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby thesteelhammer » Sat Aug 09, 2008 8:52 am

Looks like leg is fine

http://timesonline.com/articles/2008/08/08/sports/steelers/doc489d170019f94508844131.txt

Steelers column: Parker's still the man


By Mike Bires, Times Sports Staff
Published: Saturday, August 9, 2008 12:06 AM EDT
PITTSBURGH — Maybe it’s my imagination, but Willie Parker hasn’t been his same old bubbly self during the first two weeks of training camp.

Maybe he’s tired of answering question after question about that highly touted newcomer in the Steelers’ backfield, No. 1 draft pick Rashard Mendenhall.

Maybe he’s tired of answering question after question about his recovery from the broken leg he suffered last December that cost him a chance at the NFL rushing title.

For whatever reason, Parker just hasn’t been as media friendly as he has been during his first four pro seasons. More than ever, he’s leaving the practice field at St. Vincent College by doing an end-around to evade reporters.

Such was the case other day after he scored on his only carry during a “live tackling” goal-line drill. He literally had to be chased down by the media.

By drafting a running back in the first round for the first time in 19 years, it’s assumed that Parker’s carries will be down this year. The Steelers won’t run him “until the wheels fall off” as coach Mike Tomlin said last year.

Mendenhall will get his share of touches, but Parker is determined to remain the undisputed featured halfback.

He sure looked up to the task Friday night in the Steelers’ preseason opener.

Parker was on the field for only the first three plays in a 16-10 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. But on all three plays, the ball was placed in Parker’s hands.

On his first carry, he gained 4 yards.

On his second carry, he gained 5 with 15 more yards tacked on when Philly cornerback Lito Sheppard grabbed his face mask.

On his third and final carry, he gained 11.

That’s 6.7 yards per carry.

And yes, the leg feels line, too.

To this point, there are no indications that Parker’s surgically repaired leg will be an issue this year. Sure, time will tell how he feels after carrying 20 or so times in a game.

But so far, so good for “Fast Willie.”

“It’s great getting back out there, having fun. It’s just a feeling of a dream come true,” he said after his three-carry performance. “I feel like I’m starting all over again.

“It was big for me personally, getting on that field and running and getting everything all back. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.”

Mendenhall, the former Illinois star, may one day be the Steelers’ starting halfback. But judging by everything Parker has done during all the off-season workouts and the first two weeks of training camp, he’s still the main man in the Steelers’ backfield.

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Re: Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby steelerette » Sat Aug 09, 2008 2:06 pm

I can't really blame Willie for running from the media. That's funny. Sometimes the media makes things out to be not what they really are. :yes:

Fast Willie looked great last night for the limited amount of time he played. I'm so happy Mendenhall is on board. Willie will get some relief when needed.

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Re: Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby jstallworth82 » Sun Aug 10, 2008 11:19 am

With where the break was it is not likely it will affect his speed at all but it would be more likely to affect his ability to cut at full speed or bad angles.

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Re: Is FWP's leg healthy?

Postby trenches » Sun Aug 10, 2008 11:50 am

One of the big issues has to do merely with time away from training and performing athletic moves. Today's athlete keeps themselves in a high-level of shape nearly all year around if not all year. Any time away due to injury requires time to rebuild full strength, agility, etc. As jstallworth82 mentioned, this typically will affect cutting and it may also affect his ability to drive through tackles when in the grasp.

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