Steelers activate Mendenhall, Hampton from PUP list
The early returns are in for Casey Hampton and Rashard Mendenhall.
The Steelers activated nose tackle Hampton and running back Mendenhall off the physically unable to perform list Friday, moves that allow both players to rejoin their teammates for practice and conditioning work with more than two weeks left in the preseason.
“It's a great feeling to have everybody coming back,” said defensive lineman Steve McLendon, who was taking Hampton's spot with the first-team defense. “Casey is going to make our team go to that next level where we really want to go. Casey is like a dominant threat in the middle.”
Both players are recovering from surgery to repair torn anterior cruciate ligaments. Mendenhall hurt his right knee in the final regular season game against Cleveland on Jan. 1, while Hampton's left knee was injured during the playoff loss to Denver on Jan. 8.
The normal recovery time for the injury is nine to 12 months.
While both players can practice freely with their teammates, following a two-day waiting period, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are close to being game-ready.
“I've been talking to (Mendenhall), and he's been saying he's been feeling good,” running back Isaac Redman said. “He's been cutting and running at full speed, so it's just a process with him coming in live now and being able to take hits.”
Hampton, 34, has come back from a torn ACL twice before.
“(Hampton) has been working his way back in camp,” linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. “He's been working with the young guys, and the defense will be better with him.”
Once a player is removed from the physically unable to perform list during training camp, he cannot be on that list once the season begins, so Hampton and Mendenhall are ineligible to be on the PUP list for the Steelers' season-opening game Sept. 9 in Denver.
Mendenhall, who is in the final year of his contract, was not expected to be activated off the PUP list this soon. But injuries have left the Steelers thin at running back, where only Jonathan Dwyer, Baron Batch and rookie Chris Rainey are currently practicing. Redman, expected to be Mendenhall's early season replacement, has a groin injury.
“We are probably going to get a few more reps until Isaac and Rashard are ready to go,” said Dwyer, who returned to practice Friday after suffering a shoulder injury.
Staff writer Ralph N. Paulk and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.