The path to practice time has been a long one for Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Ladarius Green, who finally took the field with his teammates last week, for the first time since he was inked to a four-year contract back in March. The Steelers have already played seven games, and he hasn’t even had that many practices yet.
But the end of the path seems to be drawing near with his finally being able to return to practice. He has gotten some praise from coaches and teammates about his first steps working his way back to the field since he underwent offseason ankle surgery prior to his becoming a free agent.
He’s not there yet, though. Last week’s practice sessions were light workouts in comparison to playing in an NFL game, and the intensity of practice, including a padded practice session, will ramp up for Green and the Steelers this week, which will give a much better indication of how far along the fifth-year tight end is physically, and whether or not he will be ready to play by a week from today.
While so much attention has been paid where he is physically, however—as well as cognitively, although the team has never given any indication that Green actually dealt with concussion issues that were reported by the national media—not much mind has been paid at all to the mental toll that this recovery journey has taken on the former protégé of Antonio Gates.
He told Teresa Varley for the team’s website that the mental aspect of the rehabilitation process was as daunting as was the physical aspect, the latter of which took much longer than was anticipated by either party, and, of course, only served to further exacerbate the emotional distress caused by being physically unfit.
And it goes beyond an inability physically to do what you expect yourself to be able to do, of course. Particularly in Green’s situation, in which he is not only transitioning into a new team and a new environment, but also a new and expanded role, the inability to take part in key aspects of that transition so far along in to the process was surely frustrating.
No doubt he may have even had a sense of imposter syndrome, having inked a $20 million contract to come in and replace Heath Miller and be the Steelers’ top tight end, when that is not even a role that h ever held back in San Diego, playing second fiddle to Gates whenever he was available.
“It’s real frustrating to be coming to a new team, guys don’t know me”, he told Varley. “I couldn’t go out there and practice with them and show them what I can do”. He even went so far as to say that there were days he didn’t even want to come into the facility. “But the guys accepted me”, he said. “They understood. They talked to me, stayed with me. That helped a lot”.
And now it seems that he’s not far off from being in a position to help this offense a lot on the field—although it might take a few weeks for him to ramp up his workload and assume the role that was planned for him when he signed that big deal more than seven months ago.