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Steelers' Hampton not worried about contract rumors

Casey Hampton reacted to Internet rumors that the Steelers will release the veteran nose tackle before the start of the regular season.

"Oh, they're going to cut me today?" Hampton said after Tuesday's practice.

If he didn't seem too concerned, neither did inside linebacker James Farrior, who's long benefited from Hampton occupying multiple blockers up front.

"Been nice working with you, dawg," Farrior said, with a laugh, as he left the Steelers' locker room.

Unfortunately for Hampton, Farrior may say something similar to him in the not-so-distant future.

Hampton is one of a handful of starters heading into the final year of his contract, and the Steelers may be finished doing business until after the 2009 season following the signing of defensive end Brett Keisel to a five-year deal Monday.

"If they let me get to free agency, everybody knows what it's going to be," said Hampton, who's made four Pro Bowls. "There ain't nothing to even talk about."

That might be another way of saying that Hampton is out of here if the Steelers don't sign him to a new deal prior to the regular-season opener Sept. 10.

Hampton spouted the same company line that others in his position have said since preseason practice started -- sort of.

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me, but that's part of the business," Hampton said. "But I'm not going to worry about it. I'm not going to make a grudge and say, 'I can't understand why they didn't sign me.' I understand it's a business, but being here this long ... I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't bother me because I do want to be here."

Of course, there's some risk for the Steelers if they choose to sign the 6-foot-1 Hampton, who's listed at 325 pounds, to a long-term deal. He's on the wrong side of 30, and his weight is always going to be a concern.

The risk in not signing him, of course, is trying to find someone to plug into the middle of the Steelers' 3-4 defense. Those players aren't nearly as easy to find as, say, linebackers. His present backup is Chris Hoke.

And Hampton, who turns 32 on Thursday, said he still has plenty of good years left in him.

"Ain't no question in my mind. I know what I'm capable of doing," Hampton said. "I was banged up all last year, played through it, never complained. I'm feeling real healthy this year, and I feel like when I'm healthy ... we're going to see."

But, he added, his contract situation won't become a distraction or a problem for the Steelers.

"Just trying to win a Super Bowl," Hampton said. "Not trying to be complacent like we were last time. Just trying to show these young guys to work to get back to where we were at."

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