Inside the locker rooms

Talk of two players dominated the week. For the Oakland Raiders it surrounded the return of wide receiver Jerry Porter and for the Pittsburgh Steelers it was the health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Ironically, it could be the one who was injured that plays first.


Jerry Porter is back with the Raiders but may be no closer to the field.

Porter, suspended for four weeks by coach Art Shell for conduct detrimental to the team, had his suspension reduced to two weeks in a settlement reached between the NFL management council and the NFL Player's Association.

After missing Wednesday's practice while traveling from Florida, Porter practiced Thursday. He was in good spirits in the locker room but declined comment when approached by reporters.

Shell kept details of his talk with Porter to a minimum. Porter, Oakland's leading receiver over the past two years with 140 receptions, was inactive for the first four games of the season after arguing with the coaching staff over his decision to train at home and then requesting a trade.

"We spoke this morning," Shell said. "Look, we are here to work. He is here to work. I am here to work. We move on and try to get prepared for the rest of the season."

Shell said Porter took some reps with the scout team and "some with the regular group."

Defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who said he has spoken to Porter during the suspension, was skeptical that Porter would suit up but hoped that would change.

"I think he wanted to contribute from Day One," Sapp said. "He said he was going to work out and be prepared if the call was made to come out and help us win ballgames. He's ready to go if given the opportunity."

Porter lost $117,647 in wages but would have lost twice that if the Raiders had their way. The reduction in Porter's suspension was settled by the management council and the NFLPA by virtue of a relatively recent addition to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The Raiders were powerless to keep Porter from returning unless they released him -- a move that would cost the club $6.45 million in salary acceleration under the 2007 salary cap.


Ben Roethlisberger went through a full practice Thursday, and barring any setbacks, he will start Sunday in Oakland.

Roethlisberger has been cleared by doctors to return to the field after he suffered a concussion in the third quarter of the Steelers' 41-38 overtime loss in Atlanta last Sunday. He watched the rest of the game from the sideline.

"He felt better than he did yesterday," coach Bill Cowher said Thursday. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow, but to be quite honest with you, a final decision probably won't be made until Sunday morning. We'll have to see how he feels obviously going across the country on the trip and once we get out there. But I'm very encouraged by how he feels today."

Roethlisberger had his final ImPACT test Wednesday after practice and he again passed it. The 20-minute test measures brain process, memory, speed and motor skills.

"It's the symptoms you're constantly looking for," Cowher said. "That's something we'll monitor on a day-to-day basis up to game time."

Roethlisberger appeared to have hit his stride the past two games. He completed 32 of 41 passes for 476 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 154.62 the past two games. In the three games before that, his passer rating was 44.1 and he threw no TD passes and seven interceptions.

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