Were this a year ago, perhaps Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Mike Mitchell would have been out on the field practicing these past few days even as he nurses a minor hamstring injury. Last year, despite a detached abductor muscle that he toughed through for the entire season, he started every game in his first year with Pittsburgh.
But he knows better now.
He knows his body better, for one, after stretching the limits of his abilities while trying to perform with two groin muscle tears, hardly missing a snap throughout the year. As Mark Kaboly notes, it was only later in the year that he wised up and took off some practice time.
He also knows himself better, after facing adversity both on and off the field, feeling the pressure of having joined a team with such a vocal fan base, combined with the added expectations that come with a higher salary.
And he knows that playing the tough guy isn’t always the best thing anymore, especially as he approaches the age of 30. Encouraged by his coaches and his own body of evidence, Mitchell is taking a smarter approach when it comes to dealing with injuries.
Rather than push himself to be out there with his teammates, in spite of what further harm that might do, or how much it would limit his ability to recover, the veteran safety is letting his body rest.
Even though the injuries have been mounting at the safety position during training camp, there is no need for him to rush back. His starting spot is not in jeopardy. If anything, the younger safeties could use some work. It was always a wonder how the team would be able to get a look at all of them anyway.
Mitchell admitted to Kaboly that, while he was capable of playing, his injuries last season did limit him on the field. “I knew and I think the coaches knew that I was hindered”, he said. “There were a lot of plays out there that I felt I could’ve made if my tendons were attached to my body like most humans”.
Not that it wasn’t apparent in his play, but it is an interesting admission for Mitchell, who feels that his play at 60 or 70 percent “is better than a lot of people’s 100 percent”.
He has matured over the past year, and taken a more global approach to his career, recognizing that it is routine, especially for veteran players, to give their bodies a much needed day of rest every now and then. And to heal up when necessary, particularly when it comes before the season has even begun.
So even if Mitchell continues to remain sidelined, it shouldn’t be much of a cause for concern, and has no bearing on why several other safeties are currently sidelined. In stark contrast to last season, he now sees giving his body the necessary rest as the best option to take for the team, rather than just toughing it out. Because no matter how much better his 60 percent may be than another person’s 100 percent, his 100 percent will be far better than himself at a fraction.