We’re just over 24 hours away from the start of the NFL season (the Giants host the Cowboys tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC). It’s glorious.
And the gamesmanship is already in full swing. And it’s glorious, too.
Today, word emerged from Pittsburgh that running back Rashard Mendenhall was looking great at practice. Mendenhall, of course, tore his ACL only eight months ago in the last game of the Steelers’ 2011 regular season. He was expected to return to the field at some point this season, but for him to suit up this weekend would be stunning.
That’s just what the Steelers want their opponents to think will happen, though.
According to Scout.com, Steelers players were “buzzing” about how good Mendenhall looked at practice on Monday.
“He looked incredible,” said defensive end Brett Keisel. “He was running well, finishing runs. I’m excited for him,” added linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
As if his teammates didn’t lay it on thick enough, Scout.com says Mendenhall was turning heads among members of the Steelers defense with his “burst and long speed.” Considering that Mendenhall wasn’t exactly known for his speed before he tore up his knee (and that’s putting it nicely–the dude was slow), it’s really hard to believe that he’s suddenly a burner only eight months removed from major knee surgery.
“I’ll leave the door open for [him],” said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, when asked if Mendenhall could actually see the field in Week 1.
Tomlin is a smart man and he knows that he has nothing to lose–and a lot to gain–if he can make his opponents (this week, it’s the Denver Broncos) spend time preparing for Mendenhall. While it’s still a long, long-shot that Mendenhall actually dresses on Sunday, much less takes a handoff, this kind of gamesmanship is great to see.
It means that football really is back.