By Teresa Varley
Nose tackle Casey Hampton returned to practice on Sunday after spending the first two weeks of training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
Hampton was placed on the list when he wasn't in condition when he reported to camp. Since that point he has spent time working out with strength and conditioning assistant Marcel Pastoor and is now back on the field.
"It was good to get back out there with my teammates and bond with them," said Hampton after his first practice. "I have been around them the whole training camp and haven't had the opportunity to be on the field with them. From that standpoint it was good getting out there and being with them and having fun with them again."
Head coach Mike Tomlin, who was disappointed with Hampton when he reported, said that he lost significant weight and was pleased with the progress that he made.
"Last Sunday, we met and evaluated the progress," said Tomlin, who did not reveal how much weight Hampton lost. "We met again (this Sunday), evaluated the progress and felt that it was up to snuff. I was very impressed. He is down a significant amount of weight. He is ready to go, but by no means is he a finished product.
"He will continue to get extra work after practice as we continue to push to where we want to be. The whole emphasis is to make sure that he is the most dominant nose tackle in football. He understands that and is committed to that. I like where we are. We are on the planet, we are moving in that direction, so today was a big step in regards to that."
Hampton's weight is listed at 325 pounds, but even he smiled when asked how close he was to that weight.
"I am going to put it like this," said Hampton. "I haven't been 325 in a long time. But I am going to work and whatever I need to do to get in shape I am going to do it."
Hampton has taken in stride what has been asked of him the past two weeks, which includes running on the fields while the rest of the team is practicing and riding an exercise bike on the sidelines.
"It's just something that coach decided to do," said Hampton. "I respect what coach says. What he says, he is boss and I have to do it. I don't have a problem with anything anyone wants me to do in regards to this football team. It's another challenge I had to overcome.
"It is what it is. I just work here. He is the coach. Whatever he says to do, I'm doing it. I'm going to have a smile on my face doing it. I came from nothing. A little running on the side isn't going to bother me. I lead a good life. I have a good family. Running extra in practice and being on PUP, those are small things to me that's why you see me with a smile on my face every day and I go about things the way I go about them. What is there to be mad at? I have a great life."
Hampton wasn't sure if he would play against Buffalo on Thursday night in Toronto, but said he is more than willing to do whatever is asked. His goal is to be ready for the season-opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 7 at Heinz Field.
"You can't get into football shape unless you play football," said Hampton. "You can't simulate pushing and pulling against guys and going against 300 pounds guys while running to the ball. You can't simulate that no matter what kind of running you do. You can only get into football shape by playing football."
Hampton's return to the field was greeted by cheers from the Steelers fans at practice who chanted his name at the end and a lot of good-natured ribbing from his teammates. And it's all because they know what his presence means to the team.
"I play hard," said Hampton. "My play on the field has never been questioned and I don't expect it to start now. I take pride in that. I am going to give it to you on the field. Other stuff doesn't matter to me."