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Steelers' Ward hopeful Big Ben will return by Week 2

PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger will miss one game
following his emergency appendectomy. Hines Ward, who had the same
procedure four years ago, will be surprised if the Pittsburgh
quarterback misses a second.

After all, Ward said, isn't Roethlisberger's remarkably fast
recovery from his June motorcycle accident proof enough how fast a
healer he is?

Steelers coach Bill Cowher said that Roethlisberger was released from the hospital on Monday.

Unless there are some unexpected medical complications, Ward
expects Roethlisberger to play in the second game of the season
Sept. 18 in Jacksonville. Because the Steelers play the NFL's
season-opening game Thursday against Miami, they will have 11 days
off before their next game.

"He's going to do whatever it takes to play against
Jacksonville. He doesn't like to miss games," Ward said Monday.
"Knowing Ben, he's going to be there for Jacksonville."

Ward spoke with some knowledge of the situation. He also had an
appendectomy during the preseason, in 2002, but returned 17 days
later to make eight catches in the Steelers' opener against New
England.


Ward was still in pain, but not to the point it affected his
play.

"You're not going to be 100 percent -- you just went under the
knife -- and it all depends on how much pain tolerance he has,"
Ward said. "Ben's a guy who's played with pain before."

Roethlisberger broke his nose, upper and lower jaw, some eye
socket bones and got a concussion during his June 12 motorcycle
accident, but didn't miss any training camp time because of it.

The quarterback was released from the University of Pittsburgh
Medical Center Presbyterian on Monday following his third operation
in less than a year. Coach Bill Cowher said he won't discuss
Roethlisberger's playing status until next week.

"He's doing fine and eating well and walking around. ... He's
eager to get back," Cowher said. "The best thing about it is the
surgery went well."

Losing Roethlisberger is a setback to the Super Bowl champions
going into a difficult opener against Miami, Ward said, but he
emphasized how they went 2-0 with Charlie Batch as a fill-in
starter last season.

Batch looked rusty while throwing for only 65 yards in a 20-10
victory in Green Bay on Nov. 6, his first substantial game action
in nearly four years. He was much sharper a week later, going
13-of-19 for 150 yards during a 41-0 rout of Cleveland.

"You think you can jump right in and the game speed is going to
come right away, and it didn't happen," said Batch, the Lions'
starter for most of four seasons from 1998-2001. "I was kind of a
split-second off while I was in Green Bay, but I was able to
rebound when I came back against Cleveland. Definitely, having
those games was good."

"He's going to do whatever it takes to play against Jacksonville. He doesn't like to miss games. Knowing Ben, he's going to be there for Jacksonville."
-- Hines Ward, on Big Ben's return from an appendectomy

Batch doesn't expect to be off on his timing against Miami after
spending considerable time practicing with the starting offense
during camp.

Ward said the offensive game plan wasn't altered despite the
change at quarterback.

"It is disappointing for us watching Ben get better, working
his tail off to get back to where he was, and it's frustrating,"
Ward said. "But we've got to rally around Charlie. The confidence
and comfort level with Charlie, it's there."

Ward returned to practice this week and expects to play after
missing much of training camp with a sore hamstring.

Batch grew up in Pittsburgh and was an elementary school
classmate of Dolphins defensive star Jason Taylor, so he expects to
be more pumped up than usual starting a season opener. Batch hasn't
played in an opener since 2001 with Detroit, but now gets to start
one in his hometown.

"I've got to calm myself down because I'm excited, and to be
able to start at home and do this in front of family and friends is
great," Batch said. "I haven't had too many opportunities to play
at Heinz Field and that's why I'm excited. But my mom is probably
more excited than me, so I'll have to calm her down."

Batch attended the Virginia-Pitt game with Roethlisberger on
Saturday night, and was as surprised as anyone to learn 12 hours
later that he was ill and would miss at least one game.

"I never imagined anything was wrong with him," Batch said.
"But that's why I'm here. I'm glad to have this opportunity and a
couple of days to prepare for that. Most of the time, your number
is called and you just run into the game."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.