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Steelers punter Sepulveda gets a kick out of proving himself

| Monday, Aug. 10, 2009

• Steelers punter Daniel Sepulveda isn't approaching this training camp with much apprehension. Sepulveda missed all of 2008 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right, non-kicking knee and hadn't kicked in practice or in a game since the end of his rookie season in 2007. Despite being the only punter on the roster, Sepulveda still felt like he had to prove himself to the coaching staff when training camp started last week. "I wanted to show them that I was their guy," Sepulveda said. "Being the only guy coming into camp, I wanted to prove to them that it was the right move, that I'm going to be the guy for years to come. Obviously, I had a lot of time to think about it." Sepulveda tore his ACL on the first day of training camp last season, an injury he suffered once before, in 2006 while at Baylor. Now, he's been punting in practice, and says the knee is "holding up nicely," allowing him to focus on getting ready for the season. Not that anyone wants him to overdo it. "(Steelers coach Mike ) Tomlin kind of gets on me for kicking too much," Sepulveda said. "He kind of put the reins on me a bit to slow me down so I can stay fresh."

• For the first time in several years, Allan Shipley watched a Steelers training camp practice without his son. That's because his son, Steelers center A.Q. Shipley , was in the practice. The Steelers hosted the families of the players, coaches and staff for Sunday's afternoon practice. Shipley and his father came to training camp as fans while A.Q. played at Moon High School and Penn State, and having his family there to watch him Sunday was special for the 23-year-old rookie. "It's pretty awesome," said Shipley, the Steelers' seventh-round draft choice. "I think over the last five or six years, we've been coming up just about every year. Now he gets a chance to come up and watch me, so that's pretty special."

• Players were given their first practice off at training camp, as Tomlin canceled this morning's practice. The Steelers will practice at 2:55 p.m. today, and it is free and open to the public.

Inside the ropes

ALMOST ALL IN: The fans who braved the heat at Sunday's practice saw nearly every player participate, including most of the big names who were held out of practices last week for different reasons, such as receiver Hines Ward, safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker LaMarr Woodley. "All the guys with little aches and pains that we've talked about are coming back to work, which is good," coach Mike Tomlin said.

MINOR INJURIES: Nobody in attendance got to see much of nose tackle Casey Hampton or receiver Limas Sweed, who both left practice early because of what Tomlin called "minor injuries." Tomlin said Hampton "tweaked his knee," and Sweed had a tight hamstring. "Neither of those things appear to be very serious," Tomlin said. "We'll take a look at them in the morning and see if they're capable of going tomorrow. I'd characterize both of those guys as day-to-day."

RETURN OF PARKER: Tomlin anticipates running back Willie Parker will return to action today. He sat out a third straight practice with back spasms. "Willie's going to be fine," Tomlin said. "We gave him another day, and we'll go back to work with him tomorrow." Parker worked out on the field without pads, and Rashard Mendenhall took his place on the first team.

ALSO OUT: Among the others who didn't dress were running back Mewelde Moore and receiver Martin Nance, who are both out with hamstring issues. Center Darnell Stapleton (knee) was again held out, as was defensive tackle Scott Paxson (calf strain).

KEEP GOING: The last day the Steelers had off was July 31, the day they reported to camp. Since then, they've had nine straight days of practice. That doesn't seem to be bothering many of the players, though, mainly because of Tomlin's player-friendly workload management. "He's been doing a great job of looking out for us," said fourth-year running back Carey Davis.

BIG PLAYS: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass to Ward over the middle on the first play of 11-on-11, drawing cheers from the crowd. The biggest cheer came after Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes between defensive backs Keenan Lewis and Deshea Townsend for a 30-yard touchdown in 7-on-7 drills. Kicker Piotr Czech also got a decent reception after kicking a 60-yard field goal.

MORE REPS: With Nance out and Sweed leaving Sunday's practice early, veteran receiver Shaun McDonald got a few reps with the first-team offense during 11-on-11 drills, and he returned punts with running back Stefan Logan and cornerback Joe Burnett.

BRING IT ON: Despite temperatures on the field at St. Vincent College reaching into the 90s yesterday, Tomlin, again dressed in pants and long sleeves, welcomed the heat. "Hopefully it'll continue," he said. "I liked the weather we had today."


19: Division titles the Steelers have won since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, the most in the AFC over that span.

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