It wasn't long ago that Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall was viewed as a shoe-in to start the regular season on the outside looking in. General manager Kevin Colbert talked openly about Mendenhall landing on the reserve/PUP list for the first six weeks of the season following anterior cruciate ligament surgery just eight months ago.
Then came a series of surprising events: First, Mendenhall was activated in mid-August, just days after Colbert predicted his imminent shelving. Then on Monday -- ditching his red, don't-touch-me jersey -- Mendenhall took regular snaps with the starters at practice, drawing high praise from teammates.
"I thought he looked great," said Lawrence Timmons. "He was running well, finishing runs. I'm excited for him."
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette told WTZN-FM that he doesn't expect Mendenhall to play and called his return to practice nothing more than Tomlin pulling levers to get the Broncos "thinking a little bit."
We'd be surprised if Mendenhall saw the field, but we've been surprised by his progress all summer, so we won't count him out. Neither, of course, will Denver.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.