UNITY TWP., Pa. — Minkah Fitzpatrick needed to take care of his family. Mike Tomlin needed to take care of his.
Fitzpatrick missed a week of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, while he returned home to deal with a family issue. He returned on Saturday as a limited participant in the team’s ninth practice of training camp at St. Vincent College.
Fitzpatrick said he hopes his family issues are behind him and plans to be available for the rest of training camp and the regular season.
“When you’re away from the game that you love for a while, it’s always good to get back to it, even if it’s just a few days,” he said. “You definitely kind of realize how much you love the game and how much you care about the game. I obviously wanted to be there for family and for the people, but it’s good to be back.”
Tomlin missed Friday’s practice on his own, choosing to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony of his former player Ronde Barber in Canton, Ohio. He returned alongside Fitzpatrick, bringing the energy to what could have been a sleepy practice on Saturday afternoon, the team’s second padded session in less than 24 hours after Friday Night Lights the day before.
Tomlin said he was honored by Barber’s request to be the one to give him his Hall of Fame gold jacket on Friday.
Fitzpatrick said he was appreciative of the opportunity to take care of what he needed to take care of.
“I said two words to him and he knew what it was when I had to leave and he told me, ‘go,’” Fitzpatrick said. “He said, ‘Go be there for your family. Go do what you’ve got to do.’ It wasn’t an issue at all. They were making sure I was good every day.”
Tomlin said he has a 20-year relationship with Barber, who played for him from 2001-06, when Tomlin was the defensive backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The abilities to foster personal relationships and a family atmosphere that made Tomlin so beloved to Barber that he selected his former position coach to be the one to honor him in Canton are the same that are guiding his handling of Fitzpatrick and his situation.
It seems like he might have another 20-year relationship on his hands. When asked about his appreciation for Tomlin’s flexibility, there was the slightest crack in the All-Pro safety’s voice.
“You know, you definitely appreciate a coach and a program that takes care of family.”