By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — The Pittsburgh Steelers moved practice back an hour Thursday to accommodate a vote by the players, as the new CBA appears to be ratified.
Practice is now set for 4 p.m. at Saint Vincent College. The delay also gives players a chance to vote on the new CBA. With all 32 teams conducting a straw ballot today, the NFL’s new calendar year should begin at 4 p.m. today.
Once the new CBA is ratified, all the veteran free agents who approved new contracts can begin practicing. There have been 15 players affected on the Steelers who could not practice until today. All teams also must be in compliance with the NFL’s salary cap by 4 p.m.
“I guess you could say training camp officially starts today because we can get all our guys back,” Steelers wideout Hines Ward said. “We were really looking forward to it. … There were still some issues that needed to get taken care of.
“But the union was up all night to handle issues like (NFL Commissioner Roger) Goodell being in charge (by himself on discipline) and health benefits. Overall, it looks like it’s going to be a done deal here this afternoon.”
Offensive tackles Willie Colon, Tony Hills and Jonathan Scott, cornerbacks William Gay and Ike Taylor, punters Jeremy Kapinos and Daniel Sepulveda, quarterback Dennis Dixon, offensive lineman Doug Legursky, nose tackle Chris Hoke, running back Mewelde Moore, safety Ryan Mundy, place-kicker Shaun Suisham, long-snapper Greg Warren and tight end John Gilmore.
A player like Moore, battling rookie seventh-round draft pick Baron Batch for the Steelers’ third-down back spot, just got into town a couple days ago. And he would be far behind if he wasn’t a veteran with several years on the team.
“I’ve missed preseasons before, so this isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary for me, other than the actual circumstances,” Moore said. “But it’s only been a week, and I’ve only been here two days.
“So, I’m anxious to get back on the field for practice. I feel like I already know what I’m doing, so I just have to get out there and take care of business. And I’ve always had the same mindset, I’ll do whatever they want me to do.”
Colon has been at camp the entire time, and he’s utilized the down time in different ways.
“It’s all about being a realist, so to speak,” Colon said. “I wanted to get out there, but this was a chance for me to get into the playbook a little more, help out some young guys and be a vocal leader, at times. So, I was able to do that, and now I can’t wait to get back on the field for the first time in over a year.”
Colon ruptured an Achilles tendon during spring workouts in 2010, and he missed the entire past season. But due to an intense rehab process and strong worth ethic, he maybe could have played by the end of last season if he wasn’t on the injured reserve list.
“I was getting closer to being ready as the season went on last year, but due to being on IR I couldn’t come back,” Colon said. “But I felt better all the time and was glad to get the time off as well to rehab. Competitively, you always want to get back on the field, and I’m very competitive. So, I can’t wait.
“I kissed my helmet today for the first time since I took it off last year. I was sitting next to (cornerback) Crezdon Butler, and he’s like: ‘did you just kiss your helmet.’ I told him I really missed it. I still have some marks on it from the old days, so I’m just so very happy to be back with the Steelers.”
There has been some recent talk about Colon possibly moving to right guard if another tackle, like last year’s starter Flozell Adams, returns. But Colon hasn’t heard a word about it, and one would think that he’d be the first to know.
“Me and Coach Kugs (OL coach Sean Kugler) talk all the time, and he never said anything about me moving to right guard,” Colon said. “I’m a (right) tackle, and I’m going to stay at right tackle as far as I know.
“It could happen, I guess, but I never even played right guard in practice. Only playing around on scout team. I’ve always been a tackle. I’m not against it, but it’s just something that has not been talked about at all.”
Once the league officially gets underway today, final rosters will need to be set, so any player movement is likely to be limited.