Cowher's Pre-Camp Address

PITTSBURGH – With the Steelers training camp set to open at St. Vincent College Wednesday, head coach Bill Cowher spoke publicly for the first time about starting right tackle Marvel Smith's drug arrest earlier this month in Tempe, Ariz.

The third-year tackle was arrested in an Arizona hotel room for possession of a small amount of marijuana. He was processed and released and the team expects Smith to be ready for training camp Wednesday.

"I talked to Marvel and we're in the process of cooperating with the league. We understand and he understands that there will be consequences based on what took place," Cowher said. "We as an organization, and me personally, we're really disappointed in Marvel."

Cowher did not elaborate on what those consequences would be, but added that he doesn't believe that the league will suspend Smith. That would mean Smith has not previously tested positive for a banned substance in the NFL.

"We're ready to deal with whatever the consequences may be," Cowher said. "I do not believe it will end with a suspension, but there will certainly be some steps he will have to follow and we will definitely comply with the league in regards to that."

Smith previously tested positive for marijuana while a member of the football team at Arizona State University. But, apparently that test does not count as a strike against him under the NFL's drug policy.

In other news, Cowher said tight end Mark Bruener and quarterback Charlie Batch will begin camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. According to Cowher, Bruener suffered a foot injury while running last week, and Batch injured his knee while lifting weights. Batch underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the injury last week. But, Cowher noted, the injuries should not sideline either player long term.

"We anticipate that both of those players will be ready to go next week," Cowher said. The foot injury is yet another setback for Bruener, who missed the second half of last season and both of the team's playoff games with a torn rotator cuff.

Batch, meanwhile, signed with the team after being released June 1 by the Detroit Lions, where he started 46 games in four seasons. Batch was brought in to compete with Tommy Maddox and Tee Martin for a spot as Kordell Stewart's backup. The injury could impede his progress learning the team's offense. Cowher also noted that running back Amos Zereoue, who sat out the team's mini-camp and spring coaching sessions because of a cyst on his liver, would be checked out by team doctors today. Zereoue, who lost 15 pounds because of the ailment, has regained the weight and Cowher expects him to be cleared to play.

Two players who may arrive in Latrobe by 6 p.m. Wednesday are defensive end Aaron Smith and rookie guard Kendall Simmons. Smith, a starting defensive end, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season. The team has tendered him a one-year offer of just under $1.3 million for this season, but Smith wants a long-term deal and has yet to sign the tender.

Simmons, meanwhile, is the team's only remaining draft choice who has yet to sign a contract. The team's first-round draft choice is expected to battle for a starting job at right guard.

"I'm going to be cautiously optimistic," Cowher said. "Aaron, unlike Kendall, he does have a tender that he can sign at any time if he is not satisfied with where the negotiations are. Like I said, I'm cautiously optimistic that they will both be there by 6 p.m. Wednesday."


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