Bettis Participates In Workouts

Veteran running back Jerome Bettis created a big stir at the Pittsburgh Steelers practice facility on the Southside as he joined his teammates on Monday for the first day of their voluntary off-season program.

Bettis also shed some light on if he will return for the 2005 campaign. The physical pounding he took last season is weighing heavily on his mind and as he goes through the voluntary workouts and gets a feel for how his body is responding he will decide if he is going to play another season.

"If there is some kind of setback, and I don't plan for there to be one," said Bettis of the potential of not returning. "If there is not setback, I don't envision it being a problem."

Bettis sounds like a man who wants to return but he is also listening to what his 33-year old body is telling him.

"My heart says, yeah, let's go, but I have to be smart enough to know there have been a lot of mistakes in the past of players thinking with their heart and not physically," Bettis explained. "That's the last thing I want to do. You have to look at it from a health issue. That's the way I am looking at it

"It's a physical issue more than anything. That's the one thing I have saying the whole time. It's been a physical issue, more so at the end of the season when you physically feel more beat up. Time heals all wounds. I have been able to get away from the game and let my body heal. It feels a lot better. It's still not quite 100%, but it feels a lot better."

"You say to yourself is it worth it anymore. You have questions that you ask yourself, but it hasn't changed. This is the game plan I said I was going to take. I was going to come in here when we started working just to see where my body is. I am starting that process."

Bettis certainly knows he is wanted. His teammates have lobbied hard for his return during the off season.

"It's had a big impact. You always want to feel that what you are doing is important. As a leader on the football team your job is to motivate, lead and guide younger guys. If they say we would miss your presence, that would make a tremendous difference. It feels good."

A timetable for a decision hasn't been set, but Bettis would like to make a decision on his status before the start of training camp.

"I would have to make that call before we go into a training camp situation," said Bettis. "It would be before that definitely. It's hard to say exactly when. Ultimately time will tell. Getting out there on the field and going through some of the things we go through will tell more. I just have to go through it."

Bettis said that the fact that Super Bowl XL will be played in his hometown of Detroit also is playing a part in his decision.

"It would be a great ending to a magical ride," admitted Bettis. "A little chubby kid from Detroit started his career in Detroit and finished his career in Detroit, that would be a storybook ending. That was in the back of my mind. Not in the forefront, but in the back. But it worked it's way to the front."

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