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Steelers rookie rusher Dwyer struggling to make transition

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Monday, Aug. 9, 2010
 

How was your work week• It was probably outstanding when compared with Steelers rookie running back Jonathan Dwyer's.

First, Dwyer aggravated his hamstring injury during the second practice on the first day of his first NFL training camp.

So much for making a good first impression. That immediately put Dwyer on the wrong side of the coaching staff.

For five days, Dwyer worked frantically to get back on the field. For a sixth-round draft pick like Dwyer, a debilitating injury can be the kiss of death.

During Friday night's practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium, Dwyer was finally healthy enough to return to the field -- but immediately wished he wasn't.

Because of a lack of practice time that probably contributed to him not executing properly, Dwyer was ordered to perform a blocking drill against rookie linebacker Thaddeus Gibson four consecutive times -- which may be a first under Tomlin.

After not doing it to Mike Tomlin's satisfaction the first time -- when he missed blocking Gibson altogether -- Dwyer had to line up and do it three more times in a row while his teammates, coaches and fans all watched.

"Nervousness. Anxiousness. Excitement. The crowd was there. You want to put on a show not just for the fans, but your coaches and teammates and show them what you bring to the table,'' Dwyer said Sunday afternoon. "I don't like to make excuses, so I'm going to take this as a learning experience.''

Dwyer's week to forget wasn't complete until running backs coach Kirby Wilson, far from pleased with the rookie's performance during another drill Friday, chastised him with words not fit for a family newspaper. That exchange was capped by Dwyer tossing his helmet in what might have been his most aggressive move of the week.

Dwyer believed he knew what to expect when he prepared for his first pro training camp. As it turned out, he had no idea.

"People can tell you, but you're not going to realize how it is until you get there,'' said Dwyer, who ran for a touchdown during goal-line drills yesterday afternoon in what was his first extended practice during training camp.

"It's tougher (in training camp). You're practicing more. Longer hours. You have to put more into it. It's different from the spring, where you're done by 2 o'clock and the rest of your day is free. It's the difference between the college level and the professional level. This is your job, what you get paid to do.''

During voluntary workouts, Dwyer, who starred at Georgia Tech, made several impressive runs and looked like a potential backup to starter Rashard Mendenhall.

Once training camp began, Dwyer looked like a different player -- out of sorts, and perhaps, even a little out of shape.

Dwyer said he arrived to camp in good shape, although hamstring injuries, especially with a rookie, can indicate a lack of conditioning.

"I felt like I did enough, but being hurt is a setback for anybody,'' Dwyer said. "I'm just trying to get back in shape. This is a learning experience for me how to take care of my body better, to realize what it takes to become a professional.

"Everybody goes through trials and tribulations in their lives. This will make me stronger. It's not about getting through each day. It's about doing your best each day and figure out what you did wrong and improving the next day.''

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