A lot of people poo-poo’ed the third round selection of Miami, FL linebacker Sean Spence in last year’s NFL Draft but I wasn’t really one of them. While his size concerned me a bit, I looked at the selection as perhaps an acknowledgement by the ‘old guard Steelers’ of a changing National Football League.
Spence was a tackling machine coming out of college and just as importantly he could cover tight ends and backs out of the backfield very well. In today’s pass-heavy offenses, this is an absolute must for a linebacker, especially one in Dick LeBeau’s system.
When Spence went down on the Heinz Field turf last August in a pres-season game, you didn’t need to be a doctor to figure out this was a serious injury. Indeed it was as Spence was gone for the entire season and questions are still being asked about whether he’ll ever play again.
For the record, Spence tore both his ACL and LCL as well as dislocating his knee cap in the game against Carolina last year. The issue now centers around possible nerve damage which quite often ends careers.
If you heard the comments from linebackers’ coach Keith Butler last week, the return of Spence would be “miraculous.” Butler went on to say that “We are going to take a chance on him and see if he can come back. To me, he is worth every bit of that.”
Butler’s comments aren’t exactly ringing endorsements of Spence ever coming back to play football, but at least he is pulling for the kid.
Mike Tomlin on the other hand has a different view. When asked about Spence he said. “All the rehab is going according to plan. No news there. I did hear the opinion regarding Spence. My opinion differs. I think he’ll have a full recovery. But now you have two opinions, neither of which are expert medical opinions, so do with it what you will.”
I have no intentions of making a mountain out of a mole hill but let’s examine this a little closer. First of all, the Steelers have long had a history of speaking in one voice. Whenever things regarding injuries or personnel matters came up, there was usually one statement and that was it. I know that hasn’t always been true, but more often than not it has been the ‘standard.’
While Tomlin nor Butler are medical professionals, they are a lot closer to them on a daily basis than I am. This is why I find it strange that they would have different opinions regarding Spence and his return to the game.
Often times a rehabilitation is as much about the person’s attitude and work ethic as it is about the nature of the injury being overcome. I think both men like Spence a lot, but it’s evident they have two different trains of thought on his future.
From what I have gathered, Spence has viciously attacked this rehab and is doing everything in his power to be ready to go in August. I would love nothing more than to see him fulfill that goal regardless of who thinks he can or can’t.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.