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Porter refuses to discuss contract situation

| Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fresh off of successful arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday, Steelers linebacker Joey Porter claimed his absences from voluntary workouts had nothing to do with his contract situation, despite reports to the contrary.

"None of it is right," Porter said. "None of it."

Asked if he wanted to set the record straight and address speculation surrounding his perceived dissatisfaction with his contract, which has two years remaining, Porter dismissed the opportunity.

"I'm not going to get in a war of words," he said. "None of it is right."

In an abbreviated conversation, Porter suggested that he might cease talking with the media when he returns to the field.

Steelers coach Bill Cowher, in an interview with WTAE-TV, said yesterday that speculation surrounding Porter's absences from the team's voluntary workouts -- the Steelers completed their fifth of 14 yesterday -- was much ado about nothing.

"Last week, he went back to spend some time with his family," Cowher said. "Sometimes, I think a lot of things were getting blown up and taken out of context. But that's his status."

Fellow linebacker Clark Haggans said he doesn't discuss contracts with Porter or any other teammates. He also added that he hadn't heard if Porter was choosing to be a conscientious objector due to a contract that will pay him $3.85 million this season and $5 million in 2007.

Porter made $3.5 million in base salary last season, which was equal to that of Takeo Spikes and Zach Thomas, and $2 million less than Ray Lewis, according to the NFL Players' Association.

"When he's not here -- visibly -- people are wondering what he's doing," Haggans said. "They come up with assumptions."

Porter underwent the procedure on his right knee yesterday morning. He was at the Steelers' facilities in the afternoon, eating lunch with his wife before departing on crutches. Of the surgery, Porter said things were "fine." He is expected to be at full strength for the start of training camp on July 28.

It was the second time in less than a year that Porter underwent arthroscopic surgery. He had loose cartilage removed from his left knee last August during training camp. He returned in time for the start of the season and finished with 10 1/2 sacks, tops among NFL linebackers. His 53 career sacks rank sixth on the Steelers' all-time list, a half sack behind Greg Lloyd.

Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said he believed Porter first injured the right knee early last season. He then deferred to Porter when asked why the linebacker waited until this point in the offseason to have surgery.

"I think Joey could play; he could play right now (had he not had surgery)," LeBeau said. "This is more to make the long haul better for Joey."

Porter, 29, tested the knee during minicamp May 13-15 and appeared to move well, as he did in a post-Super Bowl taping of "Battle of the Gridiron Stars" for ESPN. But he ultimately decided on surgery for protection from any complications in advance of training camp.

"It was more of a proactive approach that we took," Cowher said.

Haggans said inside linebacker James Farrior spoke with Porter after the surgery and said he is doing fine. Porter's teammates don't expect him to be affected by the procedure in training camp.

"He'll be 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and cut like a turkey," Haggans said, making a reference to Porter's muscular frame. "Joey's the type of guy who can turn it on when he needs to. The priority is his knee. We'd rather have him healthy throughout the whole season next year than have him healthy now and struggling next season with an injury."

Porter's outside linebacker spot is being held down by veteran James Harrison, who started three games in place of Haggans last season and amassed 13 tackles, a sack and interception in those contests. Harrison was signed in the offseason to a four-year deal worth $5.5 million.

"When James is in there," LeBeau said, "we don't skip a beat."

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