Ben back to practice

Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice Wednesday and hopes to overcome "that black cloud" over his head by playing Monday night in the Steelers' game against the Jaguars at Jacksonville. How did Ben throw? What are his chances of playing Monday? Turn the page for the answers ...

PITTSBURGH – On the day Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent his appendectomy, teammate Brett Keisel warned that "He's cursed."

So Keisel took it upon himself to lift the spell.

"I've got that black cloud over my head," Roethlisberger said. "But Brett Keisel put a half-drank bottle of water in my locker. He said it's good luck, so it's still sitting in there."

It must be working. Roethlisberger practiced Wednesday for the first time since his operation 10 days ago, and …

"He threw the ball well," said wide receiver Hines Ward. "He ain't going to miss this game."

Roethlisberger wouldn't comment on how he felt, nor would he estimate his chances of playing Monday night in Jacksonville.

"That's up to coach," Roethlisberger said. "I don't make the decisions whether I'm going to play or not."

Roethlisberger threw on the side Monday and Tuesday and said "it feels pretty good."

Was there any soreness afterward?

"Just a little bit; not bad," he said.

Roethlisberger became ill Sunday, Sept. 3 and showed up at the Steelers' South Side practice facility with what he thought was a stomach ache. He passed Coach Bill Cowher in the hallway.

"He told me to suck it up," Roethlisberger said. But the stomach ache turned out to be appendicitis and he underwent surgery that day.

He spent a day in the hospital and was eating "normal foods a day later" and didn't lose any weight. That was the main problem for Ward when he played in the 2002 opener after undergoing the same procedure prior to the third preseason game. Ward returned to catch eight passes for 90 yards and a touchdown against New England in the opener.

"I felt it a little bit. There's no question you feel it," Ward said. "I think the biggest pain was one play I got hit by Rodney Harrison right in the stomach, right in that abdomen. It hurt a little bit but I think it was more mental than anything because I saw I was going to get hit there. Once I got over that mental thing I felt fine and just went out and continued playing, continued competing."

Ward continued competing all season. He caught a career-high and team-record 112 passes in 2002.

"It started off slow," he said. "I lost a lot of weight during that time so I was trying to eat as much as possible to get my weight back up. That was probably the hardest thing because I wasn't as strong as I was before I had the appendectomy. When I lost the weight, I got real tired, real fatigued. The conditioning part was a bigger problem than anything."

Ward doesn't expect Roethlisberger to experience that kind of fatigue since quarterbacks don't run as much as receivers.

Before Wednesday's practice, Ward believed there was an 80 percent chance Roethlisberger will play Monday. That prediction became a guarantee after practice.

Of course, Keisel's water is the reason.

"When he came back after his appendectomy I saw him," Keisel said. "I was just getting a drink of water and I said, here, I'm going to give you this and it's going to be your good-luck charm the rest of the year. I said, it's got a little piece of me in it so it can't be beat, so don't touch it, don't drink it, don't let anyone else touch it, just leave it right here and it'll get you through the rest of the year.

"We'll see if it works."

Keisel paused for a moment before adding his own guarantee.

"It will work," he said.

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