PITTSBURGH (AP) — Baron Batch was having one of those camps. The kind where unheralded rookies turn skepticism into belief.
In the span of 10 days last summer, the former Texas Tech running back evolved from little-known seventh-round pick into "that guy."
Then again, take on arguably the baddest guy in football — and hold your own — as Batch did during one memorable collision with linebacker James Harrison early in training camp and perceptions are bound to change.
One bad step silenced the buzz. Batch knew something was wrong the second his left knee buckled while making a cut during practice. The MRI revealed a torn ACL, ending his rookie season before it even began.
Leaning back at his locker following practice this week, the 24-year-old ran his fingers over the two-inch scar on his knee then glanced down at the even longer one on his surgically repaired ankle and just kind of smiled when asked if he ever considered doing something else with his life.
"I love to be able to overcome things," Batch said. "The ankle when I was in college. The knee. It's cool to be able to get through stuff like that and just keep going."
Even if he's not certain about the destination. Batch is part of a crowded running back picture that includes injured starter Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman and fifth-round draft pick Chris Rainey, who in some ways is a slightly smaller, slightly faster version of Batch.
He tries not to think about the numbers game and how the next four months will play out. At the moment, he's simply thankful for the opportunity to play again.
"Obviously the guys we have on the roster are the guys we have on the roster," he said. "I feel like I've just got to go in and earn a spot and prove my worth."
Batch was well on his way at the time of his injury. He wasted little time turning heads, going helmet-to-helmet with Harrison during a "back on backers" pass protection drill. The goal is for the running back to keep a blitzing linebacker from reaching the quarterback. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Batch did more than that, lowering his head and smashing into the perennial All-Pro. The sound reverberated across the practice field. Even better, Harrison didn't get to the quarterback.