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NFL Roethlisberger hopeful despite challenges



Published: Tue, August 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Starting wide receiver Hines Ward is holding out.

LATROBE, Pa. (AP) -- Ben Roethlisberger has no fear of a sophomore jinx.

Why should he worry? The reigning rookie of the year doesn't believe in such a thing.

"All you guys think I'm going to have it, so I'm not going to," the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said as he surveyed the swarm of reporters who crowded him Monday.

Roethlisberger had just finished the annual camp-opening running test, the one he missed last season because of a three-day holdout.

"I thought it was going to be a lot tougher than that," he said. "I thought I was going to be in trouble, but I guess the running preparation I did got me through it."

Offensive woes

Roethlisberger appears to be in great shape, which is more than can be said about the Steelers' offense.

Thirty-something running backs Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley skipped the test as a precaution against injury, and last year's starting wide receivers Plaxico Burress and Hines Ward are far from St. Vincent College.

Burress signed with the New York Giants in the offseason and Ward is holding out.

"Obviously it's going to affect the offense with him being such an integral part," Roethlisberger said of Ward. "But just like in the season, when you need a big play to come through you can count on Hines, and I know that when we need him we'll be able to count on Hines again. He'll be here."

Steelers coach Bill Cowher made what he called his first and last comment about Ward's holdout.

Cowher's comments

"First of all, Hines Ward, I love him as a player," Cowher said Monday. "He's a great kid and very much respected on this football team, not just by the players but by the entire organization.

"It's unfortunate that it has come to this. Hopefully, it will get taken care of sometime in the near future, but we're going to move on with or without him."

On Sunday, director of football operations Kevin Colbert said it was up to Cowher whether Ward would be fined each day.

Cowher said "those things are dealt with on an in-house basis."

He added that free-agent acquisition Cedrick Wilson would start at Ward's flanker position in today's first practice, and Antwaan Randle El would start at Burress' old spot at split end.

Cowher also said he has not spoken with Ward lately.

Roethlisberger is excited to be back on the field.

"I can be a better quarterback and not win 15 games," he said. "We just have to make sure that people understand that and realize that. We can still win a Super Bowl and not win 15 games."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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