Porter: 'I'm just happy to go out there'

Updated: September 17, 2003, 8:34 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter returned to practice Wednesday, only 2 weeks after being injured in a drive-by shooting in Denver.

When Porter was shot by an unknown assailant in a nightclub parking lot Aug. 31 following the Colorado State-Colorado game, the Steelers estimated he could miss as much as half the season. Instead, he is expected to play Sunday in Cincinnati after sitting out only two games.

"I'm just happy to go out there and have a chance to do what I love doing, and that's play football," Porter said Wednesday. "To be able to do it 20 days after what happened is actually amazing."

The bullet grazed Porter's buttocks and lodged in his right thigh before being surgically removed. Doctors said the threat of infection and the possibility that scar tissue might form around the wound made it difficult to predict how long Porter would be out.

However, doctors told Porter the wound began healing immediately and without complications. That has allowed him to return almost as quickly as was possible with such an injury.

Porter said it is important for him to practice well this week so that he can get ready to play at game speed again.

"As far as running straight and cutting, anybody can go out there and do that -- that's not playing football," said Porter, who practiced with the starting defense. "I've got to find out what I can do taking on a double team block or having to cover somebody or wrapping up and making a tackle."

Porter is hoping his return will provide a lift to a defense that allowed Kansas City's Priest Holmes to rush for 122 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs' 41-20 victory Sunday. The Steelers were No. 1 against the run the last two seasons but are 23rd overall two games into the season.

"I just want to go out there and put what happened behind me and get back to playing football and, after that, just try to get this team going," Porter said. "When you watch from the sidelines, you can't be a part of that and it hurts."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press