Notebook: CBA New Leads to Clark Blow-up

Clark's blow-up, Lewis's improvement, Batch's hands and Williams's rookie start at LG all part of Ken Torgent's notebook:

LATROBE – One of the most bizarre issues coming out of the CBA agreement was the rule preventing veterans with new contracts from practicing with the team until the start of the league year, which was supposedly Thursday, August 4th.

As such, valuable players like Willie Colon and Ike Taylor have been forced to sit on the sidelines while their teammates attempt to make up for lost time on the field.

Unfortunately, those veterans may have to wait even longer to hit the turf at Saint Vincent College.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement has been agreed to in principle, but hasn't been ratified as of Wednesday. Until it is ratified, those veterans will be unable to participate in practices, something confirmed by rep Charlie Batch shortly after practice.

"They have to wait until the new calendar year starts, whenever that may be, said Batch. "Tentatively right now, that's scheduled for tomorrow."

According to Batch, August 4th was never officially the start of the calendar year for the NFL, but rather a "deadline" of sorts by which the remaining issues of the CBA would be hammered out, allowing the deal to be ratified and become official for the next ten years.

"They did everything in their power to do what needed to be done to unlock the doors," Batch said, referring to the men at the negotiating table. "Now everything on the backside, to finalize the CBA, needed to be done. That's why there was a gap between two Mondays ago – it was almost ten days until the new calendar year to, hopefully, get everything completed. Right now whether that happens or not, I don't know."

One of the issues still to be dealt with is the execution of Roger Goodell's personal conduct policy. The players want the final decisions on fines and suspensions out of the hands of the commissioner and entrusted to a committee. Batch did say that it was one of many issues that still needed to be addressed before the new CBA could be ratified.

As far as coach Mike Tomlin is concerned, he says he still expects to see veterans like Ike and Colon in pads and practicing on Thursday.

"We're anticipating it. Of course, I'm hearing rumors like you guys are hearing rumors. We'll address those things as we get legitimate information. Right now, in my mind, I expect those guys to participate."

I'm no labor law expert and I can't begin to explain the intricacies of the ratification of the CBA, but I do know this: The longer this drags on, the more it will hurt the product on the field. For the Steelers themselves, how do you think the coaching staff will feel with Kyle Jolly and Chris Scott continuing as the starting tackles for another week of training camp while Colon and Jonathan Scott sit idle and miss valuable reps in a reshuffled offensive line?

If I were the Steelers, I'd be worried.

CLARK BLOWS UP: Ryan Clark was actually the first Steeler to hint at the newest labor issues, which could prevent those choice veterans from practicing as expected on Thursday. Clark spoke to the media after lunch and said he doubted the CBA would be ratified in time for the players to report as expected. Somewhere during the line of questioning, things turned sour and Clark ended up in a nose-to-nose argument with one of the reporters

"It has been an interesting day to say the least," Clark said on his twitter account shortly after the incident. "I had an extremely up close & personal conversation with a big bad reporter! Good times."

KEENAN SHOWS UP: One of the players who impressed during a rainy Wednesday afternoon was third-year corner Keenan Lewis, who saw extra reps with the first team defense with Bryant McFadden nursing a hamstring injury.

Lewis showed off the athleticism that led Pittsburgh to draft him with the final pick of the third round in 2009, keeping pace with speed-demon Mike Wallace and breaking up a deep ball during team drills. Lewis seems to have played his way out of the doghouse he was in last season, but the onus will be on the young corner to take the next step and perform during live action.

INJURY REPORT: Corners McFadden, Cortez Allen, and Crezdon Butler and offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert are all dealing with hamstring injuries. LB Erik Clanton is dealing with a quad issue. Veterans James Harrison and Troy Polamalu were rested.

FIVE THINGS I LEARNED:

1. David Johnson has had a strong under-the-radar performance in the first week of camp. His blocking prowess was on display earlier in the week, as expected. What was unexpected is his performance in passing drills. DJ is finding ways to get open and, once he does, he's getting his hands on the ball.

2. If Keenan Lewis falters again, Curtis Brown will be ready to step up into that 4th corner spot. Like Lewis, Brown has received a good number of first-team reps with Ike Taylor and William Gay on the sidelines.

3. Tomlin on Baron Batch after another impressive practice: "He's a rookie." – Thanks coach.

4. Keith Williams has been getting an extended look in place of the injured Chris Kemoeatu, and hasn't disappointed. Keep an eye on Williams, who could turn into a stud in a season or two.

5. The constant drizzle/misting at Wednesday's practice kept the crowds away, but I'll take this weather over 90 degrees and humid for camp any day.


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