LATROBE, PA - JULY 29: Rashard Mendenhall #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers puts his helmet on during training camp on July 29, 2011 at St Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Well, it's a moot point now.
Steelers.com reports today that both Hampton and Mendenhall have been activated from the PUP list - on the final day of training camp, no less.
Combined with the activation of Max Starks earlier this week, the Steelers have now gotten back all three players that sustained ACL injuries in January. Mendenhall tore the ACL in his right knee against the Cleveland Browns in the final game of the 2011 regular season, while Hampton and Starks injured theirs in the Steelers playoff loss to the Denver Broncos.
Hampton had said that he would be ready for the start of the regular season because he's had ACL injuries before and knows how to come back from them (his first was back in college at Texas in 1997, and then he missed the 2004 season with his second one). However, Mendenhall's recovery had been expected to take longer.
But with a spate of injuries running through the Steelers stable of running backs - Isaac Redman is sidelined nursing a groin injury, Jonathan Dwyer left the opening preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a shoulder injury, and John Clay was waived/injured - more depth was needed.
Could Mendenhall's activation have been a calculated reaction to that?
Perhaps, since Baron Batch and Chris Rainey had been the only healthy backs in practice - and neither of them are built to shoulder a starter's workload. Moreover, neither of them has played a single down of pro football during the regular season.
It may still be a little while before Mendenhall is back to 100% - both physically and mentally - since he still has to regain the confidence that he can do all of the quick jumps and cuts that he used to do before he hurt his knee. But the team thinks that he is far enough ahead of schedule on his recovery to add him back into the mix, and their vote of confidence means that things are looking up for the former 1st round pick.