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John Clay explains walking out of practice


One of the weirder scenes at Steelers training camp this year turned out to have quite a realtive simple explanation.

A day after undrafted rookie running back John Clay left the practice field early and was heading to the locker room before finally being talked back by a trainer, the former Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year had a perfectly logial explanation for his weird behavior.

“It was all a misunderstanding,” Clay said.

During the final team session of practice Monday, Clay was told to leave by running backs coach Kirby Wilson after making a mistake.

Clay interepreted “leave” to mean go to the locker room, not as Wilson intended it to mean, which was go to the sidelines.

“He said leave so I was thinking leave as in go to the locker room,” Clay said. “Somebody came and got me and told me that he meant to stay on the sidelines. I didn’t hear him say that.”

Clay returned to the field Monday just in time for practice to end and participated in post-practice sprints with the running backs.

So what was the mistake Clay made that had Wilson so fired up?

“I made a mistake and I turned around and looked at him instead of running all the way down with the play,” Clay said. “He told me if I do make a mistake that just do it at 100 percent and he will correct me after.”

Clay is expected to get more work Thursday during the second preseason game against the Eagles. Last week, Clay played in four snaps against the Redskins.

Clay is trying to catch on as the Steelers’ fourth running back after having a stellar career at Wisconsin.

Clay (6-1, 248) rushed for more than 2,500 yards and 32 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons at Wisconsin.

Clay left the Badgers after his junior year.
– Mark Kaboly


Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as three Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa and XLV in Dallas. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug


  1. Bob Loblaw says:

    Reporters love to hop on athletes about their tweets, but the reporters are just as bad.

  2. David says:

    see fellas’ it was all a mis-under-standing! no harm done……but coach, next time be a little more specific will ya, this my dream career your mess-n with ( hulk hogan ) Brutherrrr” LOL…

  3. Wisco says:

    Being from WI….I did watch John Clay have alot of good games. His soph year was his best. His last year with the Badgers, he was actually injured (ankles) and overweight in camp. He was eventually replaced as started by a couple younger RB’s.

    The knock on Clay has always been his desire and toughness. He runs with a high pad level, as well. I think he got away with that in college, since he was so much bigger than most LB’s, DB’s….but, we’ll see how this all translates to the pro game.

    I’m hoping these knocks on him were just media….and that’s not how he truly is. I hope he can be a force on short yardage for us….or be that big, workhorse — who isn’t afraid to pound it out up the middle and get tough yards for us.

  4. Scott P says:

    Short yardage?? Work horse?? Pound it up the middle?? Has anybody noticed that Bruce Arians is in charge of the offense now? Third and 1 means; four wides, empty backfield, shotgun formation.

    The days of the Steelers pounding the football with a 248 lb bruiser are long gone. This guy should have just kept walking. He will never see the light of day in the Arena league offense that Bruce throws out there.

  5. Clarence says:

    Not any more Scott P. We’ve made that adjustment and are about being a balanced team. I understand Arians penchant to throw the ball, and was real pissed with him about it. However, all I wanted was to have that tempered a bit with the running game and a 1200++ 12 TD season by Mendy was proof of that. Mendy, is also just starting to get better which is a wonderfully scarey thought.

    We are stacked to the gills with RBs and I love it. I hope Clay does catch on, despite my sleeper Batch losing the season due to injury. Redman has continued to improve into a solid backup for Mendy who could start for everal teams including such as the Bills, Dolphins, Broncos, and the Colts… yes the Colts. If they had Redman, they’d be much more dangerous.

  6. Scott P says:

    Only time will tell. I agree they have a stable of good backs. I am still a fan of Dwyer until he get’s cut. The Steelers ran a little more last year because Art 2 demanded it. Arians contemplated retirement this year so I really don’t think he cares about getting fired. The main reason he did not retire was the potential of the receiving corp.

    He is going to fling it all over the yard. If and when they do run, it will be Mendenhall. Redman will get a carry here and there but that is about it. Guys like Clay will never see the ball.

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