By Teresa Varley
It was back to work on Monday for the Steelers, taking part in their first OTA (organized team activity) since defeating the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.
"It's a great thing to come back, the first time after the Super Bowl, and stepping forward to start the foundation to get ready for another year," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "We are here right now, starting out, getting back into the football mode. A lot of guys are out of shape, me included. It's good to get back."
Ward did not take part in workouts on day one as he continues to recover from surgery on a torn rotator cuff, but fear not. He will be just fine when it counts the most.
"I am just getting back into it," said Ward. "I want to make sure I heal properly so I am not rehabbing and getting hurt. Just being here mentally and helping the younger guys is helpful. I have run enough curls in my life that I don't need to be practicing the first day. I will gradually get into it. I am glad to be back."
One player who was a welcome sight on the first day was nose tackle Casey Hampton. Hampton missed most of the OTA's last year, but plans on being in Pittsburgh for the majority of them this year.
"I'll be ready to play, that's the bottom line," said Hampton. "Whenever, September 10 or 11? I'll be ready to go. That's all that matters."
There were eight players missing from the first day of OTA's, although one of them did show up a little late.
The missing players were Tyrone Carter, Ryan Clark, Nick Eason, Larry Foote, Santonio Holmes, Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu and Lawrence Timmons.
Holmes did show up late because his flight from Florida was delayed. He didn't make it in time to take the field, but was able to be sized for his Super Bowl ring.
"We have the main core of guys," said Ward. "Some guys aren't here, some guys' flights got canceled and lot of guys didn't make it. We never had that problem. Once training camp comes around and minicamp next week, we'll have the full team. Everybody will be here. We never had that problem with us."
The Steelers will have a total of 14 OTA's, which are voluntary and come to a close on June 11. They also will have a mini-camp on May 1-3.
Ward has one year remaining on his current contract, but his hope is to remain in the black and gold for his entire career. He said on Monday he still has things to accomplish, including trying to get 10,000 yards, and wants to do it in a Steelers uniform.
"I want to be a Steeler," said Ward. "I don't want to put on another uniform. I'm late in the game now to worry about it. You look at all the previous players who went on and played at other places. I learned a lot from Jerome (Bettis) and what he did. I want to go down in Steelers history to be one of the better wideouts to wear the black and gold."
Ward also feels that he has plenty left in him and as long as he remains healthy and is having fun, he will be out on the football field.
"How long do I want to play? As long as I can get open against guys that are covering me," said Ward. "The day you don't see me smiling and I hate the game, I will walk away. I don't see that happening any time soon."
Ward would also like to win another Super Bowl before his playing days end.
"The teams in the '70s, they won four," said Ward. If we can win another one, then I think we'll be right up there with New England as one of the teams in the dynasty since I've been here. So winning another Super Bowl and accomplishing 10,000 yards would be a big thing for me personally.''