Ward returns to practice

Wide receiver Hines Ward returned to the field today, taking part in the team's morning walk-thru and will be a full participant in the afternoon practice.

Ward opened training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, still recovering from offseason surgery on his left thumb. Ward tore ligaments in the thumb in week two of last season, playing the remainder of the year wearing a splint.

"My thumb ended up touching my wrist," said Ward of the injury. "That is not a good thing. I taped it up, wore a splint all year and played with it. I got it fixed in the offseason and here I am.

"I am ready to get back. Just to get in football shape and run around with the pads on and go out there and compete with the other guys. I am excited to be back, get my feet wet and get out there."

While he was sidelined for the start of camp, Ward played the role of mentor to the team's younger receivers, including Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders. But he missed practicing with them, taking part in the action.

"You miss the thrill of competition, seeing the guys go up against the defense," said Ward. "We are all competitors. I was eager to get back.

"It feels good. I just have to wear a splint. If I could play through it last year when it was hurt and now it's fixed, I should be okay."

Ward said he isn't sure if he will play against the Washington Redskins in the preseason opener on Friday night, but he will be ready to go full tilt when the Steelers open the regular season against the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 11.

"When the season starts I want to be as healthy as I can be," said Ward. "We are going to be smart about it and slowly get the feet wet and go day by day. It's time for me to start getting into football shape. Getting pulled on, tugged on, competing and I have to catch up with the other guys.

"I will tape it up. I played 14 games with it last year. I had the splint on it. I will be fine for the season opener."

And while Ward might not be in 'football shape' yet, he did say thanks to competing on 'Dancing With the Stars,' he kept in shape during the offseason.

"That was the best offseason shape I was in my whole 14 years here," said Ward. "But it's time to hang up the ballroom shoes and pull out the cleats and start running around and getting in football shape."

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