NT Casey Hampton looked like a tennis player Wednesday. Well, at 350-some pounds, his left elbow resembled one belonging to a suffering tennis player: encased in black tape and a cast. All Hampton admitted Wednesday was that he recently got it “fixed” – scoped, most likely – and still expects to return to the Steelers' lineup in the season opener Sept. 9 at Denver.
So it's sort of like tennis elbow after all?
“Age,” was how Hampton described the injury. “I just got my elbow fixed. [It'll] get healed up.”
Given his ACL injury last January in the Denver playoff loss, will this elbow procedure slow his return? “I'll be out there playing soon, hopefully,” Hampton added. “That's my goal: being out there for the first game. And I'm not worried about the knee at all.”
In the absence of the former Pro Bowl NT and longtime anchor of Dick LeBeau's 3-4 defense, Steve McLendon has attracted considerable attention and coaching praise for his first-team play thus far. Hampton agrees with that assessment. Who will start upon Hampton's return? “We'll see ... how things unfold," Hampton said. "I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be in the best shape coming back.” But he offered nothing but praise for McLendon's rise from a 280-pound, oft-cut backup to a rising defensive linchpin.
“He's going to be a very, very good player,” Hampton said of McLendon. “I definitely think he's going to be a great player in this league. He's definitely deserved his time [thus far]. It's showing on film.”
RB Rashard Mendenhall also injured his ACL, in the regular-season finale one week before Hampton hurt his knee. Yet Mendenhall returned to practice this week, and Hampton still awaits clearance to return – apparently due to the elbow. Hampton, though, joked that he isn't worried: He believes he can return to play faster than Mendenhall. “He's got to do a lot more moving around that I got to do,” Hampton said.
Follow Chuck Finder on Twitter for real-time updates from Steelers training camp @CBSSportsNFLPIT.