By Teresa Varley
Running back Willie Parker had his first real test against the Houston Texans, returning to the field for regular season play for the first time since suffering a broken fibula against the Rams last season.
He passed with flying colors.
"I had a lot of confidence," said Parker. "I got back on the field and was making plays, you get a great deal of confidence from that."
And you get accolades as well. Parker was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance, where he carried the ball 25 times for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
"I won it before, but it means a lot coming back my first game and winning it right off the top," said Parker.
Parker is attacking the 2008 season with a new sense of life. He understands how fragile an NFL career is after suffering the first serious injury of his career. And he doesn't want to let one play slip by where he doesn't give 100 percent.
"I ran with a great passion," said Parker of his performance on Sunday. "Last year when I got hurt, I kind of reflected back on my career and I saw I took a lot of things for granted. I didn't want to do that. My coming back, I always said, would be a new era, a new beginning for me. I'm just going to play with a passion, more than I used to play with."
Parker's three touchdowns have already topped his total for the 2007 season when he only scored twice on the ground and a big part of that is his role as the short yardage back.
"Willie has always in my opinion been a short yardage guy," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "He is a little ball of muscle. He is not the biggest guy, he is not Jerome Bettis. He is very strong, he has very good balance if he needs to bounce it outside, which he did a couple of times in the game. He is a presence down there and I think we need to acknowledge how good he is down there."