Big Ben limping, Okobi goes down during Steelers practice Print
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Wednesday, 08 August 2007 13:42
NFL Headline News

 Ben Roethlisberger was limping toward the end of practice Wednesday after a teammate stepped on his left foot. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't seem worried about his quarterback.
``I'm sure he's fine,'' Tomlin said.
The Steelers didn't offer any more information, and they didn't appear concerned that Roethlisberger would be limited during practice Thursday or might not play in Saturday's exhibition game against Green Bay. Roethlisberger usually ends practice by signing autographs and chatting with fans, but he left the field immediately in a cart - apparently to have the foot checked.
Chukky Okobi, competing at center with former Tampa Bay lineman Sean Mahan, dropped to the turf in pain with an apparent back injury several minutes after Roethlisberger did. The team did not say if Okobi was injured.
``He went down with a lot of pain and discomfort but I don't expect anything long term,'' Tomlin said.
Two regulars, running back Willie Parker (knee) and guard Alan Faneca (shoulder), were held out and apparently won't play Saturday. Parker also missed Sunday's 20-7 preseason victory against New Orleans, when Faneca's shoulder injury occurred.
``Willie has inflammation of the knee, and usually that takes 10 to 14 days and we're about 11 to 12 days into it now, so we're coming toward the end,'' Tomlin said. ``Alan's in a similar situation with his shoulder, and we'll give him a few days to see if that thing calms down and we'll take it day by day.''
Buccaneers
Mike Alstott walked off the field at the end of last season, wondering whether he had played his final NFL game. The veteran fullback's role in Tampa Bay's offense has diminished in recent years, so he wasn't sure if he still fit into the Buccaneers plans - or even if he wanted to return for a 12th season.
``When you are on a one year at a time contract you never know what's going to happen. You never know what direction they are going to want to go in or what direction you're going to want to go in,'' Alstott said.
``But after sitting back for a couple of weeks, I knew that fire was still burning inside me - that I wanted to play football and I can play football.''
So, he's back and sweating through another training camp.
The Bucs went 4-12 last season, the club's worst finish since Alstott was a rookie in 1996, and the 33-year-old six-time Pro Bowler thinks he can help the team get back on track.
``I've been doing this since I was 7 years old, so I couldn't imagine not being here right now. And, it's going to be a hard transition sometime down the road when I decide not to be here.''
Broncos
Champ Bailey, owner of 19 interceptions over the last two seasons, is hard to impress. But the Denver defensive star is dazzled by second-year receiver Domenik Hixon, who missed his entire rookie season with a broken foot.
``I'll tell you what, man, he's a guy that we could have used last year,'' Bailey said. ``He's got great ability, great talent. You wonder how it's going to translate to games, but he looks good. He looks as good as most of our receivers. He has the ability to start. I just hope he fights for it.''
Hixon, a fourth-round draft pick from Akron, is going to get plenty of opportunities to impress the coaching staff when the exhibition games start because the Broncos' receiving corps is spending more time rehabbing than running routes.
Rod Smith (hip) and Brandon Marshall (thigh), who was slated to start alongside Javon Walker, have yet to step on the field during training camp, and Brandon Stokley (thigh), Marquay McDaniel (hamstring) and Glenn Martinez (thigh) have all come up limping of late.
Hixon has been impressive.
``The funny thing is he's 6-foot-2 but he can run like crazy and then he can stop on a dime,'' Bailey said. ``I mean, you don't see a lot of receivers who can do that with blazing speed like he has.''
Special teams coach Scott O'Brien also is salivating over Hixon and can't wait to see him returning punts against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.
Texans
Jerome Mathis has been out with injuries so often since Gary Kubiak took over as coach that seeing him on the field each day at training camp is like seeing a new player.
The Texans are excited about Mathis, who missed 14 games last season with injuries, now that the third-year receiver and returner is healthy.
``Let's face it, this is as long as Jerome has been on the field with us over a period of time, and that's a positive,'' Kubiak said. ``I think Jerome is heading in the right direction.''
Mathis made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2005 after averaging an NFL-best 28.6 yards on 54 kickoff returns and becoming the first player in team history to return a kickoff for a touchdown. He ended up with two kick returns for scores in 12 games.
But he sat out most of last season with a fractured foot and finished with seven kickoff returns for 192 yards - a 27.4-yard average - and didn't catch a pass.
Giants
Veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer got a little surprise from coach Tom Coughlin - he's not playing in the preseason opener against the Panthers.
Toomer said Wednesday he was OK with the decision.
``I really don't know how to take it because, in a sense, I am trying to get ready for the season,'' said Toomer, who had knee surgery in November. ``I thought I would play in the preseason games and get my reps in and knock off some of the rust.''
Coming off the injury that sidelined him for the second half of last season, Toomer has been limited to one practice a day at training camp.
``I don't think we want to necessarily push him any further than that. He's done well with everything we've asked,'' Coughlin said of Toomer. ``He's had some incidental contact and jumped right back up, so I think he's done well.''
 

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