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Limas Sweed embraces 'new start'

Limas Sweed's decision to change to No. 80 is much than just switching jersey numbers.

"It's a new start and a new number," he said Friday. "Can you dig it?"

Sweed hopes the Steelers' coaches dig what they see from a person who labels himself "ready to play some football."

Speaking to the media for the first time since he was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list in December after missing two games with what the team called an undisclosed illness, Sweed said the incident that forced him to miss the final month of the season is no longer an issue.

"I just had some personal things I was going through in my life," he said. "My family and the Steelers helped me get through it. It is water under the bridge. I worked my butt off, and I am ready to get out there and start playing."

Sweed would not say what the illness was but did say he and the organization agreed to cut his season short so he could seek help.

"My family was very supportive, and (the organization) was supportive," he said. "We worked through it, and it is over with."

Fellow receiver Mike Wallace, whose locker is next to Sweed's, said he sees a different man in the way the former Texas star carries himself.

"I see him trying to get better," Wallace said. "He is fighting through all that adversity. ... He's not worried about the past. It looks like he wants to start with a clean slate."

Sweed's brief career with the Steelers appeared to be over after last year. The former second-round draft choice fell out of favor after a handful of key drops during his first two seasons.

He appeared to be the odd man out in March when the Steelers brought in veterans Antwaan Randle El and Arnaz Battle to supplement a position controlled by Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes and Wallace, last year's rookie sensation.

But when the Steelers traded Holmes to the New York Jets, Sweed's career with the club had new life.

"With Santonio gone, it definitely opened up some spots," Sweed said. "It is an open opportunity to come in and make some plays and show what I got."

Sweed has shown flashes of the talent the Steelers fell in love with, but his inconsistency has hurt him tremendously. He had a key drop his rookie year in the AFC title game against Baltimore and again last year at Cincinnati. Both plays would've resulted in touchdowns.

Sweed has played 20 games in two years but has only seven catches and 69 yards and no scores.

"I feel good," he said. "I felt like I am in college again. I feel fresh. I feel young and real confident. I want to relax and play football and have fun."

Wallace said if Sweed can work through some mental demons, he could turn into a valuable asset.

"Y'all have seen him before. Y'all seen him at Texas," Wallace said. "We all know the physical abilities that he has. If he gets through the mental stuff, then the sky is the limit."

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