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clevestinks 06-07-2005 04:54 PM

Bettis feeling good!
Congrats to Papa Bus, and good to hear he is feeling good.

Bettis has no setbacks in return to practice
Tuesday, June 07, 2005

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

New father Jerome Bettis feels like an old football player. His spring routine disrupted by thoughts of retirement, overall body fatigue and the birth of his first child, Bettis nevertheless believes he's building momentum toward what likely will be his 13th and final season in the NFL.

"I feel OK," Bettis said after practice yesterday. "I mean, I know I'm older now, I feel it more, but I feel good."

Bettis, 33, announced in March that he would return to play this season after contemplating retirement for a month. He issued a qualifier, though, that he would play only if there were no "setbacks" this spring.

To help guard against any, he did not participate in the May 6-8 minicamp that kicked off spring drills. But he joined teammates in practice May 24 and has experienced no problems since then.

"I'm where I thought I'd be," Bettis said. "I knew where it would be I wasn't going to play like a spring chicken. I knew that was the price I would have to pay, so I'm comfortable with that."

Bettis ranks fifth in career rushing in NFL history with 13,294 yards, 70 behind No. 4 Curtis Martin of the New York Jets. He led the '04 Steelers with 941 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns, the most he has scored in a season. He also showed he was not a tired player because 545 of his yards came in the second halves of games.

But this time last year, Bettis was in better shape. He works annually with trainer Bob Kersee in St. Louis before he would join the Steelers for their spring drills. His time this year was taken up by the birth of his daughter, by thoughts of retirement and because he wanted to give his body a long rest after he carried 294 times in the regular season and playoffs. That process will be reversed this year. Bettis will join Kersee for nearly six weeks of workouts in two weeks.

"I'm not in great shape, which is good news," Bettis said. "If I were in good shape and felt OK, then it would be a problem. As I get in better shape, I think I'll feel a lot better as well."

Bettis concedes the starting halfback job to Duce Staley, who opened last season as the starting tailback and rushed for 707 yards after seven games before a hamstring injury ruined the second half of his season.

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