Foster back in action

Running back DeShaun Foster returned to the practice field last week for the first time since breaking his ankle in the Carolina Panthers' NFC Divisional playoff victory over the Chicago Bears five months ago. The ankle didn't appear to hinder him at all, but he didn't do much in the way of acceleration or cutting. The drills are considered non-contact.

Foster, who led the team in rushing last season with 879 yards and came on strong toward the end of the season, participated in individual drills and took a few handoffs from quarterback Jake Delhomme during 11-on-11 drills as the Panthers kicked off four scheduled weeks of summer school sessions at Bank of America Stadium.

"It didn't hurt at all," said Foster.

Foster received a three-year, $15 million contract from the Panthers in March and is slated to be the team's featured back this season despite the addition of first-round draft pick DeAngelo Williams.

It's an admitted gamble by the Panthers considering Foster had six pins surgically implanted in his right ankle in late January and that he's finished three of the past four seasons on injured reserve.

Without Foster, the Panthers were forced to go with Nick Goings and Jamal Robertson at running back and got drubbed 34-14 by the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship game.

However, Foster showed enough down the stretch last season to convince the front office to keep him around and not go after a more high profile -- and more expensive -- back like Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James, Ahman Green or Jamal Lewis.

But can Foster rid himself of that pesky bug?

He missed all of his rookie season in 2002 with cartilage damage in his right knee and was sidelined for 12 games in 2004 with a separated shoulder.

He played all of 2005, replacing starter Stephen Davis as the starter midway through the season, before breaking a small bone on the outside of his right ankle after a Bears player landed awkwardly on it as he attempted to turn the corner and head upfield.

Seemingly more candid and jovial with the media than in the past, Foster talked openly to reporters about his past injuries on Wednesday.

When asked if he can do anything different to prepare this year, Foster said he won't change much because it hasn't been a matter of pulled muscles or any type of a conditioning problem.

Foster also said rehabbing from this injury was tougher than the others.

After spending nearly two months off his feet, he said it took awhile to regain all feeling in the foot. He began by running in the pool and later on the treadmill.

Now, he said the ankle feels fine and he can't feel any of the pins or the metal plate. In fact, the only time he's reminded of it is when he has to pass through security at the airport.

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