Mike Adams feels like he has spent enough time over the last year or so away from football.
That didn’t make his latest delay any easier, but the former Ohio State tackle says he’s “up to speed” with the Pittsburgh Steelers offense and ready to report for his first NFL training camp in three weeks.
Adams, the Steelers’ second-round pick in April, was still at Ohio State for most of the Steelers’ organized team activity (OTA) practice sessions in May and June due to an NFL rule that keeps rookies away until their schools have completed classes. With Ohio State on the quarter system, Adams was in Columbus and trying to keep up with what was happening in Pittsburgh.
“I went to rookie minicamp and the last minicamp, so I have a good feel for things,” Adams said last week while in Cleveland for the NFL rookie symposium. “My coaches did a great job keeping us up with everything. I had the playbook the whole time, I had the film. I feel like I stayed up with things as best I could.
“As a rookie you’re always learning, so I definitely have work to do.”
Adams was suspended for the first five games of his final college season for his role in the memorabilia scandal that led to the ouster of Jim Tressel at Ohio State. He returned and started at left tackle, then performed well at the Senior Bowl. Despite a positive marijuana test at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, the Steelers selected Adams in the second round. And despite missing all 10 OTA practices, he lined up with the first-team offense at the all-important left tackle position in the Steelers’ June full-squad minicamp.
“To start right away is definitely a goal, but I’m trying to just learn and be ready to contribute, help this team any way I can,” Adams said. “We have one goal in Pittsburgh and that’s to win a Super Bowl, so it’s my job to just do whatever I have to do to help that.”
The Steelers are going through a transition period in trying to rebuild their offensive line while installing a new offense under new coordinator Todd Haley. The hire of Haley marks the first time since 1999 the Steelers have gone outside their staff to hire a new offensive coordinator.
That everybody is learning a new system might help Adams with his catching-up process. His main competition at left tackle figures to be second-year player Marcus Gilbert, who started 14 games as a rookie despite having no offseason work due to the NFL lockout. The Steelers seem to envision Adams at left tackle and Gilbert at right, but that will be determined during training camp.
In the meantime, Adams just wants to continue to make a solid first impression — even if it is a delayed one.
“First and foremost, from what I’ve seen so far it’s an organization committed to excellence,” Adams said. “There are a lot of great people from the players in the locker room to the people upstairs. It’s a good fit for me.”
The NFL/no OTAs rule meant the Steelers’ first two draft picks, Stanford guard David DeCastro and Adams, missed OTAs.
The rule caused a similar circumstance in Indianapolis, where the Colts went through May without top overall pick Andrew Luck and second-round tight end Coby Fleener. Their Stanford teammate, undrafted wide receiver and Sylvania, Ohio native Griff Whalen, also missed OTAs.
University of Cincinnati rookies were also affected by the rule due to UC’s quarter system. Defensive tackle Derek Wolfe figures to compete for a starting spot with the Denver Broncos despite being in Ohio while the Broncos went through OTAs, and fellow second-rounder Isaiah Pead said he “was going a little crazy” having to miss practices with the Rams.
“I really only had a week and a couple days in St. Louis,” Pead said. “It was a little hectic but I think I handled it well.
“I think I’m caught up but I’m going to keep studying the playbook. You can never study too much. I’m ready for the real thing here in a few weeks.”