Steelers RB Baron Batch is known in Steeler Nation as being unique - both in his skills on the football field and his hobbies off of it.
Post-Gazette reporter Ray Fittipaldi interviewed Batch recently, and provided some insight into the second-year player's mind, as he continues to rehab from a knee injury that cost him his 2011 rookie season.
Batch is something of a renaissance man, painting and writing self-reflective prose on his web site, www.baronbatch.com. At Texas Tech, Batch was just as multi-faceted, rushing and receiving for over 3,600 yards in his career.
He was drawing raves for his willingness and ability to block during the early portion of training camp before he suffered a torn ACL. His words in describing the process are those of a grizzled and wise veteran moreso than a 23-year-old second-year rookie. More than that, they express an openness and vulnerability not often expressed or shared by professional athletes.
It's a weird feeling to all of a sudden just be told that you're ok to go compete with some of the best athletes in the world, and especially unsettling when you have been out of action for 9 months. But just like with other things in my life this was no different. Sometimes you just have to dive in.
Dive in with both feet, aware of the dagger like rocks that may or may not rest at the bottom of the lake, aware that you might not succeed and failure is a real possibility.
I wish I could tell you that I took my own advice on this.
Batch dives into a fierce competition at running back, despite the likelihood of an opening created by RB Rashard Mendenhall's own torn ACL and subsequent rehab process. The Steelers drafted RB Chris Rainey in the 5th round of the 2012 NFL Draft and have been stockpiling running backs (like Batch) the last few years.
Isaac Redman is the unquestioned starter and feature back in Mendenhall's absence, but John Clay and Jonathan Dwyer will push Rainey and Batch just as hard as they will be pushed. It's tough to say how it will work out on paper, but Dwyer and Clay have regular season touches and Rainey and Batch do not. However, the latter are better athletes and their combinations of speed and quickness provide a dimension of elusiveness behind Redman.
If Mendenhall is placed on the PUP list (a likely outcome of training camp), he will have to miss the first six games of the season. While nothing is certain, in that situation, though, it's likely one of the four - Dwyer, Clay, Rainey and Batch will be cut.
So like Batch said, sometimes you just have to dive in. That seems to be what he's willing to do, and that mentality should work out well for him.