Maurkice Pouncey had a smile on his face and a bounce in his step in the locker room on Wednesday morning and nobody could blame him.
After missing the past two games Pouncey was removed from the Exempt/Commissioner Permission List on Wednesday, is back on the 53-man roster and is practicing with his teammates today, ready to return to game action on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
"I feel like this is the beginning of the year," said Pouncey. "I have a lot of energy. We're going to see how things turn out today at practice. I know all of the guys are excited. We just have to stay humbled and focused."
Pouncey was suspended for the two games, decreased from the original three-game suspension after his appeal with the NFL, for his part in the skirmish that took place at the end of the Steelers-Browns game on Nov. 14.
Pouncey watched the last two games from home with his kids, who were disappointed they couldn't go to Heinz Field for the Browns game. He said it was challenging watching and just wanted to support his guys.
"It's a little bit different when you are not hurt or injured and you are just watching at the house," said Pouncey. "I actually got up on Sunday and went and did some cardio. I felt like I was playing. To sit at the house like that was totally different. You're sitting there wanting to play so bad, but you knew there was support, texting the guys saying good luck."
And the fact that the team won both games he missed, against the Bengals and Browns, helped ease the pain.
"They played amazingly," said Pouncey. "A two-game win streak. It was awesome. The guys got out there, they protected well, they ran the ball well. They didn't need me.
"I have been telling you guys all along, we have great leadership, we have great players. This team is really humbled and focused and likes to play football. It's exciting when you have that type of team and the type of leaders we have upstairs."
Pouncey praised the job B.J. Finney did the last two games, who started at center in his absence.
"He played outstanding," said Pouncey. "He made a lot of money for himself. He went out there and played very, very well."
The one thing that helped Pouncey get through the two-week stretch was the support his teammates showed him. Teammates wore 'Free Pouncey' sweatshirts that Ramon Foster purchased to the Browns game and in the locker room afterwards awarded him the game ball, even though he was at home. Cam Heyward delivered it to him later.
It was just another sign of the respect teammates have for one of their team captains.
"That was pretty cool there, honestly," said Pouncey. "The 'Free Pouncey' shirts, the game ball, it was very touching. It was awesome for the guys to do that. I was (surprised by the game ball), but not the sweatshirt, I kind of knew about that. The game ball for sure. I never got a game ball sitting at the house, so that was pretty cool.
"The guys knew. If you are my teammate, I will ride for you no matter what. A lot of good came out if it."
Pouncey said he spent the last two weeks staying in shape, working out on his own on a regular basis.
"There are some good people in Pittsburgh," said Pouncey. "I was at Planet Fitness and L.A. Fitness running and talking to people. It was awesome."
Pouncey said he has moved on from the incident and has no regrets, but also understands why the NFL did what they did as far as fining so many players.
"The NFL had to make a statement, rightfully so," said Pouncey. "At the end of the day the fight didn't look good."