Steelers’ Ramon Foster returns to practice a month after knee injury

September 19, 2018

Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster during OTAs on May 31, 2018, at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

They say a near-death experience can change a person. For Ramon Foster, seeing his career flash before his eyes helped him gain perspective on his football mortality.

Almost a month to the day after he suffered a right knee injury, Foster returned to Pittsburgh Steelers practice on Monday.

“I always say to myself, ’When I’m done, I don’t want to be a guy who you just totally forget about,” the starting left guard said after practice. “Clearly, I’m leaving a mark on some guys because they said the practice wasn’t the same after I left.

“It was fun to be back.”

Foster had his right knee wrapped in an ice bag and shrouded by a large brace when he walked into the locker room after practice at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. But Foster, the Steelers’ second-longest tenured player, said if this weekend was the regular season, he would play.

Luckily for him and the Steelers, their game this week is a meaningless preseason finale at Heinz Field against Carolina on Thursday. So the bone bruise and hyperextension Foster suffered during the Steelers’ first padded practice of training camp July 28 has almost two more weeks to heal prior to the regular season opener Sept. 9 in Cleveland.

“That’s one of the things ‘Coach T’ (Mike Tomlin) always said, too: ‘I don’t have to tell you what to do. Just be ready by Week 1,’ ” Foster said. “That’s the clutch thing about having a relationship with a coach like that.”

Foster said he did all individual drills and split first-team practice reps Monday. He won’t play Thursday, but most starters will be out.

Foster said the mental hurdle of dealing with the injury was perhaps the most difficult aspect of it. He said it was the first significant injury he had to a lower body part during his football career.

Foster said he “hated every minute” of rehab, “because I have never been in a training room like that.

“But I am just glad to be in this spot right now. I feel good.”

While out, Foster was a regular attending practice, first at Saint Vincent and over the past two weeks on the South Side.

“He hasn’t been away from us,” Tomlin said. “Ramon is the type of guy, he understands the role he provides not only tangible role in terms of his play, but the unofficial role in terms of his professional leadership. Although we haven’t had him out there, he’s been really close to the group.”

B.J. Finney is one of the more capable backups at any position on the team, so it wasn’t necessarily Foster’s play that was missed most in his stead.

“Someone as vocal as Ramon is like that, practice just wasn’t as fun without him,” center Maurkice Pouncey said.

Foster said he feared the worst when the injury happened -- “I felt my leg go back and heard a pop-pop-pop and all of that”-- and that Tomlin freeze-framed the moment of his injury in film study the next day.

“I’m grimacing now, still, thinking about it,” Foster, 32, said. “A lot of things go through your mind. You don’t want to go your whole entire career and end it on an injury or have to go to IR. ...

“I have always been a gamer. Always showed up. So initially, that was my thought: ‘No, we are not doing it this way.’ So when I found out a had a shot (to play Week 1) ... it was excitement more than anything.”

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