Players happy to be back to football

Some arrived with televisions, others with pillows and many with nothing but the bare necessities to get through the next three weeks. But for every player the most important thing on the first day at Steelers training camp after a long NFL lockout is that they simply arrived.

"It's good to be back. It's fun to play football again," said nose tackle Casey Hampton. "I have never been a fan of training camp, but I am happy to be back with my teammates."

Thursday was the day for the players to check-in, settle in to their dorm rooms and go through a conditioning test. It was also a chance to see each other after a long offseason.

"It is good," said wide receiver Hines Ward about being back. "We knew it was going to come down to the wire. We haven't missed any training camp days. It's good to see the guys. I missed seeing them. It's the first time together since the Super Bowl. It feels good to be here."

During the lockout the players made sure that they kept themselves in shape, with some of the offensive players working out together at a high school field under the leadership of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger while others made sure they pushed themselves even if it was on their own.

"I put myself in camp shape," said defensive end Ziggy Hood. "It's hard to mimic it until you get here and shake the rust off. I was doing my best to stay in shape though. I mostly did it on my own, sometimes with Steve (McLendon). It's tougher when you don't have anybody pushing you, but you learn a lot about yourself then. It teaches you that you don't need anyone else to push you.

"I am ready to get back to it here. After being in the same routine every day I was getting bored."

One of the hot topics on Thursday was the comments made by James Harrison to Men's Health about teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. And it wasn't a hot topic because it was on the player's minds. They were simply answering questions from the media regarding it.

"He is going to say what he wants to say, but I know on Sunday's he is going to be ready to play and that's all that matters," said Hampton. "As long as he is out there on Sunday giving us what he gives us and that is all that matters.

"When people write things you can't believe what they write because they take it out of context. You have to ask that person what they said. I haven't talked to him about it. It doesn't matter. James is a different guy, he does his own thing. He is a good teammate. I don't think anyone will disagree with that."

Others echoed the same sentiment and were surprised it was still even an issue.

"I think some of the things got twisted and turned to sell magazines. They did a good job. I am sure they sold a lot," said defensive end Brett Keisel.

Keisel also added that Harrison is a good guy, good teammate and friend.

"We talk about fishing," said Keisel. "He is a good fisherman. We took our sons fishing. They are close. He thinks he is better than me. I don't know about that."

Linebacker LaMarr Woodley enters training camp as the team's franchise player, going into the last year of his contract. Woodley is coming off one of his best seasons in the NFL and isn't going to let not having a long-term deal make him worry about injuries or holding back.

"I definitely wouldn't be worried," said Woodley. "The franchise tag is a good number and if you can't survive and live off that something is wrong. I don't worry about injuries. You can't control that. I just go out and play football. When you worry about injuries that is when something is going to happen."

When the team takes the field on Friday afternoon for the first training camp practice, it will be a test for young players, from second year guys who were on their own working out for the first time this offseason to rookies who hadn't even seen a playbook before arriving at camp.

"I worry about the pace more for the younger guys," said Ward. "Luckily we have a great veteran team. I am not worried about that. It's the younger guys that don't have the structure that we normally have in the offseason. I worry about those guys more than anything. We will find out. We have 90 guys here at camp trying to make this team. It's going to be competitive."

Some players got some surprising news on Thursday when they learned two of their teammates were waived. Tackle Max Starks and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El were both let go before the team reported to camp.

"I just found out on the ride up here," said running back Isaac Redman about Starks. "I was surprised and shocked. But that is part of the game."

For wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, seeing Randle El go was more than just losing a teammate.

"He was my role model," said Sanders. "He made my transition into the NFL easier."

At the same time it gives Sanders and fellow receiver Antonio Brown more work in the offense, which Sanders hopes translates into reaching his goals.

"It takes 62.5 yards a game for me to get to 1,000 yards and that is what I am trying to average," said Sanders. "You have to set goals. I have a few of them. I don't put a limit on touchdowns. The sky is the limit."

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