Well, practice today started with a rain shower, but it quit in about ten minutes and remained overcast for the rest of the afternoon, making it much more bearable for the spectators, and presumably the players. More on the players after the jump.
The opening flexibility exercises and stretches afforded some amusement and interest today. First of all, Ben and Jeff participated the whole time, unlike yesterday. Both of them provided some light relief. During the exercise where everyone walks forward kicking as high as they can, most of the guys got their toes to around or slightly above their waist. I was amused to see that Jeff was more or less whacking his forehead with his shin. During the exercise where they walked/hopped/sidestepped, Ben hung out around Flozell Adams and jumped around him, looking rather like a little yippy dog. When you can make a man that is 6'5" and well over 200 pounds look like a little yippy dog, you are talking about a seriously large dude... I noticed that Hines had his own trainer for the stretches, which everyone else did by themselves. I'm seeing that part of the interest of training camp is to get a bit more of a glimpse of the personalities involved.
The undisputed star of this afternoon's practice was #88, Emmanuel Sanders. He ran like a bat out of hell, he caught everything thrown to him, no matter how badly, and he electrified the stands with what may become his version of the patented Spindenhaul move. Somebody threw a ball over his head - at least a couple of feet - and he leapt after it, spun around as he got it, and fell to the ground still clutching it. Talk about made for prime time! He may turn out to just be this year's camp star, but he looked amazing. It seems like a third of my notes are rapturous jottings about how fast he is, how he catches everything, blah blah blah. You all would be disgusted if I transcribed them faithfully, but hopefully you've gotten the gist - keep an eye on #88!
There were a number of kick and punt drills, and Jeff and Danny were making them fly! Hopefully this will carry over to the actual season. Later in the day Stefan and Joe Burnett both had good returns - Stefan's was particularly impressive, as he escaped a bunch of guys, after initially fumbling the ball, and took it most of the length of the field. Of course, the bummer when it is our guys defending is that you don't like to see that. I'm discovering that training camp has a lot of these "modified rapture" moments. But back to Logan - he was also very impressive today in both the WR and RB drills, and man, he can change direction on not just a dime - maybe on a peppercorn. He also caught a high throw one handed, and held onto it as he hit the ground. It must take a lot of practice to quell your instinct to drop the ball and save yourself.
I was happy to see Rashard back at practice, although he didn't do a lot, but I assume that means that the toe injury is trivial. Whew! Redman continued to look quite good today, and in fact not too long after the infamous Sanders pirouette, Redman escaped several defenders with a couple of spin moves of his own. It must be catching.
One of the things that was quite near the stands today was the drill where a TE crouches in a cage and bursts out against the tackling dummy. (Sorry, I never played football, so I don't know the official names for this stuff.) The one that really impressed me was David Johnson, and he also had a nice catch in one of the five wide drills. And speaking of TE's, Heath is definitely still the man. He caught a pass in the middle of serious coverage and took off with a couple of guys hanging off of him. It's a good look on him.
The wide receiver corp is still in great flux, although I think that Sanders is going to be this year's Wallace. Battle and Randle El both had a rather slow start, but some nice catches later in the day. I'm also watching Brandon London - first of all, he's really cute, but he has done some good work the past few days, and had few embarrassing moments. Grisham also looks pretty good, and surprisingly took a handoff from Dixon in the final drills that he got a lot of yardage on. Antonio Brown had some nice catches. And of course Logan is looking really good. All in all, it looks, at least to the untutored novice, like the race is still on. If I had to cut somebody on the basis of today's practice it would be #14, Isaiah Williams, but it's early days yet, and happily it isn't my job. I would hate that job.
I finally got to see Flozell actually do something besides stand there looking scarily massive. And he looked really good, I thought - if he's having a problem with the switch to RT, you wouldn't notice.
I felt that the final drills were more intense than yesterday - maybe the guys are heating up a bit, or maybe it's because things had cooled off - it was at least 10 degrees cooler than yesterday, and no baking sun.
As you can tell, I can see a lot more of what the offense is doing than the defense - the defensive drills are mostly across the field, and even with binoculars it's harder to tell what's going on. But once they started playing some snaps, I got a bit more of a look at them. Here's a few things that stood out:
Crezdon Butler had a great interception on a botched pass.
Keenan Lewis practically ripped William Gay's jersey off in some one-on-one drills in which he was getting beaten.
I didn't think it could be done by a mortal, but Woodley managed to slow Redman down. Of course, Woodley isn't an ordinary mortal...
Finally, as far as QBs go, I didn't see anything much different than yesterday. Byron looked a bit better, but he threw into heavy coverage so many times that I'm wondering if it was a drill. Feel free to mock my ignorance.
Ben came over to the bleachers afterwards and was signing loads of stuff. I had to get back and so didn't hang around, but maybe next time...
And to close, my two favorite comments of the day. From a fellow bleacherite: "I don't love living in Cleveland, but I love being a Steelers fan." And this from Ryan Clark, who ran along the sidelines at the beginning of practice and yelled "30 is NOT the new 40 - it's the same old 30."