Run Test Not So Easy For Select Few

<p>LATROBE – The Pittsburgh Steelers conducted their annual conditioning test in their first official on-field act Thursday afternoon here at St. Vincent College. Two players, undrafted rookies Pernell Griffin, a linebacker, and cornerback Nijrel Eason, failed to complete their 14 40-yard sprints after suffering muscle pulls. And starting nose tackle Casey Hampton struggled mightily while completing his set.</p>


Head coach Bill Cowher attributed part of Hampton's problems to surgery he had during the offseason to clean out his ankle."Casey had the ankle surgery and that cut back on his conditioning," Cowher said. The 320-pound Hampton said he hit the wall about halfway through the run. "I knew it was going to be tough and I was running it at home, but when you come here, it's different," Hampton said. "I was running on turf (at home) and its different running on grass."

Other than those three, though, the Steelers completed the test with flying colors. Linebacker Joey Porter completed his run for the second year in a row with a cartwheel into a back flip, while running back Jerome Bettis led his pack in the final sprint, high stepping the final 10 yards.

Bettis, who had been sidelined for much of the offseason while recovering from a groin injury, said he worked hard with trainer Bob Kersey in the past month to get in shape for camp. "It wasn't so much running, it was more doing things on the track," said Bettis. "Doing things to rehab my groin so that when I got here, I would be ready to go as opposed to trying to whip myself into shape."

Others who looked good during the run were first-round draft choice Kendall Simmons, Keydrick Vincent, Alan Faneca, Chris Combs, Jeff Hartings, Brett Keisel, Bob Jones, Oliver Ross, Kordell Stewart, Amos Zereoue, Will Bouton, Kendrell Bell, Plaxico Burress and Dewayne Washington.

The only two players who did not attempt the drill were tight end Mark Bruener and quarterback Charlie Batch. Both players ran on the sideline and then Batch threw passes to Bruener. The Steelers will begin practicing Friday with two practices. Cowher wasn't sure if Batch and Bruener would be cleared to practice Friday.


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