Frank Summers is back in the familiar position of having to prove himself.
The former UNLV tailback was a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, trying to justify their faith for drafting him in the fifth round.
Now Summers is trying to make up for lost time after missing nearly the entire season to a back injury.
This time, at least he’s not starting from scratch.
"He’s starting all over again, but the benefit of starting all over again is he knows a great deal more about the system … and how we go about our business," Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson said. "It’s wonderful we aren’t just getting him."
Wilson was an early Summers supporter and remains solidly behind him, which could make the difference as roster cutdowns approach.
"I really appreciate it," Summers said, "and I’m playing to prove that I’m the guy that they wanted on the field last year."
Summers and the Steelers are back on the practice field today, taking part in three days of organized team activities. Practices, which include 7-on-7 drills and situational scrimmages, will be much like they are during the season.
OTAs are used more for teaching than determining roster worthiness. Whether Summers makes the team will be determined in training camp in August and possibly early September.
But the Steelers showed early interest in Summers last year and have at least some investment. They were the only team to send a position coach, Wilson, to UNLV’s pro day.
Then they drafted Summers, but his season ended after only two games. He remained at the Steelers’ facility, however, learning the system and making sure coaches saw his face.
"It helped a whole lot," Summers said. "It was like a redshirt for me."
The Steelers have the same need for a short-yardage back they had last year when they drafted Summers, a 5-foot-10-inch, 240-pound back who routinely ran through tackles at UNLV. Summers rushed for 1,668 yards in two seasons in the Rebels’ pass-based spread offense.
Wilson said the Steelers will use Summers at running back as well as on special teams. But Summers must show he can handle the fullback spot, and be an effective blocker for Rashard Mendenhall. Summers had difficulty in that role in his brief attempts last year.
But at minicamp this month, Wilson said Summers showed promise "retaining a great deal of information" taught last season.
"We’re still real high on Frank," Wilson said. "He got hurt. That’s nobody’s fault when that happens. He has a lot to offer. We plan on trying to get that out of him."
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914.BROWNS ADD ANOTHER EX-REBEL, DEFENSIVE TACKLE TEVASEU
If a former UNLV player is signing with an NFL team, he’s probably headed to the Cleveland Browns. Or maybe it just seems that way.
The Browns added to their stable of ex-Rebels on Monday, signing undrafted free agent defensive tackle Martin Tevaseu.
Tevaseu joins a Cleveland roster that has two other UNLV products, cornerback Eric Wright and tight end Greg Estandia. Last year, the Browns cut linebacker Beau Bell, whom they drafted in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. Also on the roster is Gerard Lawson, a defensive back and punt returner who went to Palo Verde High School and played at Oregon State.
The Browns opened organized team activities Monday.
The St. Louis Rams begin OTAs today, but running back Steven Jackson, who starred at Eldorado High, isn’t expected to participate. He might not return until training camp opens in late July.
Jackson had surgery in April to fix a herniated disc. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch “it was a minor procedure” and holding out Jackson is a precaution.
The Rams need a healthy Jackson, to take pressure off rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall draft pick last month. Jackson has rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of the past five seasons, and in 2009 gained 1,416 yards.
MARK ANDERSON/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL