Bud Dupree was back to being the self-described “real chill person” after practice Thursday. He stood in the early-evening sun and spoke calmly and pleasantly, often cracking a smile.
A far cry from the maniacal, enraged ball of fire he was late in Wednesday’s practice, when he touched off a mini-melee during a team drill – needing multiple players to pull him away and work to calm him down – and then, apparently no less livid even after a few minutes had passed, getting thrown out of a drill after exchanging blows with Marcus Gilbert before the two had even engaged in a rep.
“Everything is good now,” Dupree said warmly on Thursday.
“It’s going to make us closer as a team.”
Dupree, the rookie pass-rusher, couldn’t suppress a chuckle when asked if he and Gilbert, the Steelers’ veteran right tackle, had, to paraphrase, hugged it out.
“Coach T made us do it anyway. But it’s all good, though. It is football, just an aggressive game… We’re good now. As soon as it was over. You can’t let something like that keep going in the locker room, because at the end of the day, we’re all a team.”
It was a good look for Dupree, who as a first round pick both faces external pressure to succeed and can perhaps be (even subconsciously) treated differently by veterans than any of the other rookies.
Dupree was contrite without looking weak. Accountable while still sticking up for himself.
Asked if he agreed with the adage that some veterans were heard saying in the immediate aftermath of the Wednesday histrionics that “Rookies should know their role and their place,” Dupree said: “I don’t believe in that. I’m on the team trying to make plays, just like everybody else trying to make plays.”
Were there any positives to come out of an incident that likely – in some ways, positively – changed the way Dupree’s teammates look at him?
“(The offensive linemen) stuck together – everybody stuck together. It’s good to see the defense stick with the defense, and the offense stick with the offense. Because in the game, you’re going to need that. You don’t want to back down from people.”
Dupree laughed off the obvious – no, he won’t let himself get out of control like that during a game. “You’ll get fined, you’ll get kicked out of the game. So when it comes to the game, you’ve got to walk away.”
Speaking earlier in the day, Gilbert likewise shrugged the incident off: “The game of football is physical. It’s nothing personal; we’re just out there competing, having fun and just finishing guys. And that’s what we want to continue to do.”
Gilbert echoed the thoughts of the media – and, apparently, the rest of his teammates – when he said of Dupree’s temporary temper tantrum, “Obviously, that’s the first we’ve seen it from him.” But he also said it was “what we like to see – not the fighting, but bringing nastiness to his position.”
Forget the Wednesday Fight Day. It’s over. And it won’t have any lingering locker-room effects. Of much more important to the Steelers is the development of a player who is a big part of their future. Here is more of what Dupree had to say Thursday…
Dupree, assessing his own camp: “I feel like I’m doing my job, but I feel like but I feel like I haven’t been in position to make many plays. I feel like as the season goes on, I’ll be right where I want to be.”
Dupree, on his learning of the scheme and the NFL level: “I’m way more comfortable than I was in July – now it’s just to the point of finding out exactly how to attack other teams.”
Dupree, on his improvement since OTAs: “I’m definitely starting to play faster – just because I’m getting more reps. I think that’s helped out a lot.”
Dupree added that he (as well as, on the other end of the experience spectrum, 37-year-old James Harrison) will be rotated in with the first-teamers Sunday against Green Bay. “Definitely going to play a lot,” he said. “That’s a good thing, too.”
So is the fact that his first practice scrum as a professional is behind him.