Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert not only acknowledged the reality of running back Rashard Mendenhall starting the 2012 season on the PUP list, but also told reporters on Monday that veteran nose tackle Casey Hampton will definitely be a PUP candidate if he is back with the Steelers in 2012 according to Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Hampton had surgery late in January to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that he suffered early in the AFC Wild Card game against the Denver Broncos and it was the second time he has had the surgery on his left knee.
Hampton, who is the final year of a three-year contract he signed back in February 2010, will turn 35 years of age in September and he is a likely candidate to have his contract restructured if he is to return for his 12th season with the team that drafted in the first round of the 2001 NFL draft. He is currently scheduled to earn a base salary of $4.89 million and is scheduled to count almost $8.057 million against the 2012 cap. Chris Hoke, Hampton\’s primary backup for over a decade, retired late last month and that leaves the Steelers several question marks at the nose tackle position when you factor in that Hampton will be slowed early on should he indeed return. The only other nose tackle on the Steelers roster with experience is Steve McLendon, an exclusive rights free agent who will return in 2012. The Steelers are expected to address the nose tackle position early in the 2012 draft as well.
The main question with Hampton right now is how long will it take him to recover from surgery, and what type of shape will he be in when and if he returns. ACL injuries usually take 6-9 months to recover from after surgery and that would put the start of the season as a best case scenario for Hampton. It would be a minor miracle in my opinion if he was ready by then. The Steelers could just choose to terminate the contract of Hampton outright and save $5.89 against the 2012 cap. It is unclear if they would have to come to some sort of injury settlement though because of the injury.
With the start of the new league year now roughly a month away, we should have our answer in regards to the status of Hampton over the course of the next several weeks.