Big Men Make Anticipated Returns

In this week's edition of Professionally Speaking, we bring you news of the return to action of two famous former Buckeye big men who play different sports: Orlando Pace and Greg Oden. We also have updates on Antonio Pittman, Brandon Mitchell, Alex Stepanovich and Doug Datish.

Our weekly look around the professional sports world for former Buckeyes begins in St. Louis, where Antonio Pittman and Orlando Pace are in somewhat different situations atop the depth chart at running back and left tackle.

For Pace, the Rams' preseason-opening 34-13 loss to Tennessee Aug. 9 was the first time back on an NFL field since Week 1 of last season, when he tore the labrum and rotator cuff in his right shoulder. He missed the last 15 games of 2007 and told the Rams' television broadcast team during a break in action that he felt rusty against the Titans but was glad to get back on the field.

"I'm just getting back and using my arms and gaining confidence and things like that, so it was a little rough but I've just got to keep working through it," Pace said.

He intends to not simply fill a spot in the starting lineup but eventually get back to his old dominant, Pro Bowl-caliber self.

"That's important to me," he said. "I just want to go out and play and mainly get my injuries correct right now. Once I do that, my old form will come and I'll be my old self out there again.

"(Injuries are) the thing I'm kind of battling right now, just getting confidence and being able to punch without thinking about it. Hopefully the next week or two it will be one of those things I don't even think about and I can just go out and play."…

One of the players Pace cleared the way for was Pittman, a free-agent pickup last season who started the preseason opener in place of St. Louis star Stephen Jackson, who is holding out and has not reported to camp yet.

Pittman had a team-high 21 yards on six carries and scored the team's first touchdown, on a 2-yard run around left end in the second quarter. The man he outran to the goal line was fellow former Buckeye Donnie Nickey, a Titans safety who had two tackles on the evening.

Pittman and Brian Leonard are getting much of the extra work available as Jackson stays away in hopes of prying a richer contract from the Rams.

"You just try to make the most out of the situation," Pittman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this week. "I feel like we came out strong. We've just got to finish up. The second half of the game was the big difference. But we still have three more weeks (of the preseason) to get it right."

He also caught two passes for 16 yards. Leonard, a second-year player from Rutgers who also plays fullback, had 12 yards on five carries.

If that is not enough Ohio State flavor for one playoff game, consider that 1995 Heisman Trophy winner and former Titan Eddie George provided color commentary for the Titans' television network…

Elsewhere in the AFC, Ted Ginn Jr. finds himself atop the latest Miami Dolphins depth chart at a trio of spots: wide receiver, punt returner and kick returner.

He handled only one of those duties in Miami's preseason opener, however. Ginn caught one pass for 10 yards as Tampa Bay prevailed, 17-6, Aug. 9.

Jayson Foster, a rookie from Georgia Southern, handled returns in the game. He took the opening kickoff back 25 yards but later muffed a punt. He recovered for what went in the scorebook as a loss of two yards.

Incidentally, former Buckeye Will Allen was credited with the tackle on the muffed punt.

He finished with three stops - all solos - on the night.

Buccs' wide receiver Joey Galloway did not play as he continues to nurse an injured groin…

One state north, there was a mix of good and bad news coming out of Atlanta Falcons camp.

Sporting News Today reported Aug. 7 that Alex Stepanovich was turning heads with how capably he handed center duties with expected-starter Todd McClure sidelined by an injury. The Falcons were encouraged that Stepanovich, who has starting experience with both the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals, could provide depth up front but those thoughts are on hold, at least temporarily, after Stepanovich was reportedly carted off the practice field yesterday with an apparent back injury.

His loss was the immediate gain of Brad Wilkerson, who assumed No. 1 center duties with McClure and Stepanovich both out, but also perhaps benefiting was Doug Datish.

Were everyone healthy, Datish would figure to be fourth on the depth chart, but he figures to get more reps if Stepanovich's ailment keeps him out longer than the few days the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports he is expected to miss.

Datish is in his second tenure with the Falcons, who drafted him last year and kept him on injured reserve all season before letting him go in June. He was subsequently picked up by the Indianapolis Colts, who released him after the start of training camp…

The Bengals' release of rookie fullback Tyler Whaley appeared to signal that no former Buckeyes would play for pay for either of Ohio's professional teams, but that changed Aug. 9 when Brandon Mitchell signed with the Cleveland Browns.

A 6-3, 205-pounder originally from Florida, Mitchell spent last season on the practice squad of the Houston Texans, who waived him last week. He was a Buckeye from 2002-06, starting every game at safety his senior season as the Buckeyes won the Big Ten title for a second straight season.

He'll find a familiar face in Cleveland in the form of defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, who coached defensive backs at Ohio State from 2001-05…

In non-football news, the big news of the past week came from Portland, where 2007 No. 1 NBA draft pick Greg Oden took part in his first full-contact basketball workout since having knee surgery prior to last season.

To watch the workout, check out a blog set up by the Trailblazers

Finally, Professionally Speaking would like to offer congratulations to Josh Newman, who rejoined The Show this week when called up by the Kansas City Royals.

Newman, a left-handed relief pitcher, made his MLB debut last year for Colorado and began this season with the Rockies but has spent the majority of the season in the minors.

As of Tuesday morning, Newman had yet to appear in a game for the Royals and carried a career major-league line of 0-0 with an 8.44 earned-run average, all accumulated with the Rockies. He struck out nine and walked six in 10 2/3 innings.


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