PITTSBURGH -- Verron Haynes is back and, he says, better than ever.
“I think I’ll be better,” he said. “This leg is stronger than this other one. We took the cybex test – the test they use at the combine – and this leg’s actually stronger, so I’m very excited about this opportunity to get back out there and just showcase my talent. Mentally, there are some humps that I have to get over, but that’s part of it.”
Haynes tore the ACL “along with every ligament in that (left) knee. It was close to dislocation,” he said after the Steelers signed him to a one-year contract yesterday.
The sixth-year running back hurt the knee Oct. 29 during the loss to Oakland. He was injured during what he thought was a third-and-short draw play. He was hit and injured by defensive lineman Terdell Sands, but the Steelers had picked up the first down on the previous play.
“They changed it late,” Haynes said. “It was a hurry-up mode and the ref didn’t signal the line judge that we had made it, so we were going to go for the third-and-whatever, the short-yardage, with the draw. And Ben (Roethlisberger), after the game, came up to me and said, ‘I wouldn’t have called that play if it had been a first down.’”
Now, Haynes must compete with veteran acquisition Kevan Barlow, among others, for a job, but Haynes wonders if the injury has a silver lining.
“I’m out there and I feel good,” he said. “I feel better than I ever did – quick, fast, so just stay focused and get over the hurdles of babying it and all that.”
And the competition?
“I just come out here and compete,” he said. “The role will define itself. I’m not about the numbers game. That will play out in training camp.”
Haynes has played in 60 games for the Steelers and gained 738 yards (4.2 avg.) with 57 receptions. He rushed for only 78 yards through seven games last season before the injury, an injury he thought could end his career.
“It crossed my mind,” he said. “I battled a lot and I had to overcome a lot. I dug down deep and found out a lot about myself. But adversity, I think, brings out character. Every day, persevere and get better.”
He rehabbed at the Steelers’ facility, passed a physical and was signed. He thanked team surgeon Dr. Jim Bradley for “a fantastic job” that resulted in him practicing yesterday without a brace.
“Mr. Rooney, Kevin (Colbert) and Mike Tomlin,” Haynes said, “they told me all along not to worry about it. ‘We have you. You’re going to workout here and we’re going to bring you back.’ True to their word, they did.”