Steelers Notebook: Batch on fast recovery track
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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Backup quarterback Charlie Batch said his surgically repaired broken right collarbone is feeling better, and he began his rehabilitation yesterday, hoping that he will be able to return sooner than anticipated.

"I feel pretty good right now," Batch said.

Batch, 33, was injured in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles and had surgery Aug. 11 to insert a plate in his collarbone -- a procedure designed to not adversely affect his throwing motion. With Batch out, the Steelers signed veteran Byron Leftwich, a former starter with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons, to a one-year, $645,000 contract.

"I always felt I would be back before the timetable anyway," Batch said. "I always have whenever I had anything done before. But you want to err on the side of caution."

Batch said he was told he would be out nearly six weeks following surgery, meaning he could return for the third, and possibly the second, game of the regular season.

He had the surgery, rather than let the injury heal on its own, because he didn't want to be placed on injured reserve and miss the rest of the season. Batch would have been out 10 to 12 weeks if he didn't have surgery. Also, there was a chance his collarbone would "shorten" without surgery because scar tissue would form on the clavicle. Yesterday was the first time Batch had X-rays on his collarbone since the surgery.

Polamalu back on the field

Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu officially came off the physically-unable-to-perform list yesterday and practiced -- albeit gingerly -- with his teammates for the first time since training camp began.

Polamalu, though, acknowledged that he "didn't really test out too much" the hamstring injury that has bothered him since before the start of camp.

"It's not smart to," he said. "Not the first day out there, to start sprinting and put it out there like it's game day."

He said he would like to play Saturday night in the preseason game in Minnesota, but that it's more important that he is ready to play in the Sept. 7 season opener against the Houston Texans.

Coach Mike Tomlin said he will gauge Polamalu's progress this week before determining if, or how much, he will play against the Vikings.

"I want to play, but I want to play against Houston," Polamalu said. "I want to be smart on this hamstring and not injure it worse. But I also want to be physically prepared to play. I want to get some reps. I would love to play against Minnesota."
Holmes' punt-return role

Santonio Holmes said he is "a little nervous" about getting to return punts against the Vikings because he hasn't done it since his rookie season in 2006.

But, he said he is looking forward to getting to do it again, even if Tomlin said he might use Holmes as a situational returner in the regular season.

"If that's what it's capable of being, then that's what it's going to be," Holmes said. "If he needs me back there to make plays for the team, I'll jump back there anytime."

Tomlin said Holmes might get to return punts in special situations in the regular season, comparing the role to the way the Washington Redskins used to employ cornerback Darrell Green as a part-time punt-returner. Green returned only 51 punts in his career, but he averaged 12 yards per return.

"I think I can handle punts pretty well," Holmes said. "It's a different phase of the game that allows me to be more of a football player. It allows me to make plays."
Hartwig starting again

Tomlin said center Justin Hartwig, who started the second preseason game against Buffalo, will start against the Vikings -- an indication that he likely has won the starting position from incumbent Sean Mahan. Mahan, though, has performed very well in the preseason, as has Darnell Stapleton, an undrafted rookie free agent in 2007 who impressed the coaching staff last season, too.
First published on August 20, 2008 at 12:00 am