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Steelers WR Ward could miss bulk of camp

Receiver Hines Ward's offseason thumb surgery could keep him on the Physically Unable to Perform list for an extended stretch of training camp.

"The proper time of recovering from a thumb injury, I think I am a week or two away from that," Ward said Friday.

He had thumb surgery June 1 to repair a ligament injury he suffered last season; recovery time is usually two months. Ward is not permitted to practice until his is removed from the PUP list.

» Tackle Tony Hills signed his exclusive rights free agent offer and will report to camp. He won't be able to practice until Thursday, the first day of the new NFL calendar.

» Running back Rashard Mendenhall declined to talk about tweets he made about Osama bin Laden in May. "

I'm really not going back into that," he said.

» Defensive end Aaron Smith finally came clean, saying he never was going to play in Super Bowl XLV even though he wasn't ruled out until just before the game.

"I just got to the point where the risks were just too much," he said. "(The decision) was probably made earlier than you were told."

Smith said his repaired triceps is 100 percent.

» Some teammates are holding out hope that Chris Hoke will be re-signed.

"Hopefully, Hoke will still come in," fellow nose tackle Casey Hampton said. "Hopefully, he will be here."

INSIDE THE ROPES

The revamp of the Steelers' offensive line is complete (for now), but it's going to take a couple of days for the unit to be on the field together.

The release of veteran tackles Max Starks and Flozell Adams on consecutive days; the re-signing of Willie Colon and Jonathan Scott; the bum knee that put Chris Kemoeatu on the Physically Unable to Perform list; and the signings of Tony Hills and Doug Legursky made the first offensive line unit at Friday's practice interesting.

Under the new CBA, free-agent signees aren't permitted to practice until the start of the new NFL calendar, which is Thursday. That prevented Colon, Scott, Hills and Legursky from practicing Friday.

"It is the same for us league-wide," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I want to keep that relative perspective on it and not let frustration set in. It can be frustrating if you compare it to how I felt last year at this time."

» Tomlin's first-team offensive line Friday was Chris Scott, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey, Keith Williams and Kyle Jolley. Scott was on injured reserve for all of his rookie season a year ago. Williams is a rookie out of Nebraska, and Jolley spent his rookie season last year on the practice squad.

Foster is an undrafted player in his third year out of Tennessee, and Pouncey was last year's first-round pick. "We got a lot of good guys on the line," Foster said. "It is kind of a wait-and-see thing for us. We aren't really stressing it."

» The Steelers are expected to have a starting line of Jonathan Scott, Kemoeatu, Pouncey, Foster and Colon when the season starts, and they could re-sign Starks. "We have a lot of young guys who are going to have to step up," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "I've heard a lot of good things about some of them."

ROOKIE WATCH

ANTHONY GRAY

Position: Defensive tackle

Measurables: 6-foot, 317 pounds

College: Southern Mississippi, undrafted free agent

Competition: Gray is trying to catch on as a run-stuffer in the middle. With Casey Hampton aging and Chris Hoke unsigned, Gray could be a prime candidate as, at least, a practice squad player.

Camp moment: When Steelers coach Mike Tomlin introduced the rookies to the team Thursday and asked them to tell them the most interesting thing about themselves, Gray boasted that he could bench 525 and squat more than 800 pounds.

Quotable: "If he is brave enough to tell everybody up front, then he must be doing it" — Ziggy Hood

They said it

Notable quotes from Friday at St. Vincent College:

"That's the beauty of this team. We just come back and start playing ball again. You get back together with your family, and it's like coming back for Thanksgiving or something. It's good to be back with the guys, and I don't think any of the offseason stuff, the lockout stuff will have any effect on us." Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on whether he has to pull the team together and get it focused

"I'm probably about 75, 80 percent physically. I'm good enough to get out there and get some bumps and bruises to see how exactly it's going to play out. I'm anticipating it's something I'll deal with for the whole season. I'm going to do the things that's necessary to take care of my body so I don't hurt it later." Outside linebacker James Harrison on his health after twice having surgery on his back during the offseason

"It can be frustrating if you compare it to maybe how I felt last year at this time or other years, but in terms of how we feel right now with our progress, it will be measured against others that are doing similar things. We're just going to work and understand that everyone's working under the same conditions." Coach Mike Tomlin on free agents not being able to practice until Thursday even if they have agreed to terms

"I am that guy. That's how I like to look at it. It's just a matter of me going out there and showing my teammates, my coaches that I am that guy. I feel like I'm 110 percent mentally, physically, mind, body and soul. And now it's just time to put it all together." Limas Sweed, who has battled injuries and psychological issues the past couple of years, on whether the Steelers have the prototypical tall receiver

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