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Steelers, Cardinals arrive, as do questions about Ward's health

TAMPA, Fla. -- Hines Ward isn't cutting or turning yet on a sprained right knee -- an injury that sometimes takes weeks and weeks to heal. He's not running pass patterns or sprinting with much speed.

Not playing in the Super Bowl? Ward can't imagine it, and neither can any of his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates, who arrived in Tampa on Monday to prepare for the game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The one question hanging over the AFC champion Steelers as their practice week begins is whether the wide receiver who owns most of the franchise's career pass-catching records will play with a sprained right knee.

Super Bowl blog staff are all over Tampa covering both teams and sharing their experiences about the craziness that is Super Bowl week. Keep up to date with all of the latest entries.

To Ward, there's no question at all.

"I'm playing," he said. "I would have played if the game had been last week.

"I don't have a brace on, I'm walking around fine," Ward added. "I'm not going to be 100 percent, I'm not going to trick anybody. But I think I'm going to be able to go out there and perform like I'm used to."

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was startled anyone doubted that one of the NFL's toughest and most physical offensive players -- and the Super Bowl XL MVP -- would play.

"People ask me that question, and I want to smack them," Roethlisberger said. "It's Hines Ward -- he's going to be out here. It's the Super Bowl."

Ward has been so committed to his rehabilitation program since being hurt in the Jan. 18 AFC Championship Game that he worked out Monday before the Steelers took a morning flight to Tampa.

Ward is listed as questionable for the Sunday night game against Arizona, and Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said the receiver won't practice Wednesday, the same routine he followed all season. Ward hopes to take part Thursday in what will be the Steelers' final, full-scale practice.

Before then, he'll have some additional help with his rehabiliation.

Ward shipped a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to the team hotel -- yes, just like the device Michael Jackson once used. Ward believes it stimulates the production of red blood cells and will hasten his recuperation from the same type of injury that sidelined running back Willie Parker for a month this season.

The Cardinals arrived in town after the Steelers but ahead of schedule, thanks to a strong tail wind.

Quarterback Kurt Warner, who won a Super Bowl title with the St. Louis Rams in 2000, leads a team of Cardinals who are mostly newcomers to the NFL's biggest stage. After all, the franchise hasn't played in a title game since 1947.

"Unlike probably the other two, and I think definitely the first one, this one up to this point was really like business as usual," Warner said. "I really felt like it was just another road trip. The whole Super Bowl thing hasn't hit me yet."

Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt has been here before, as offensive coordinator of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl champions of three seasons ago.

"It's a little muggy out here," Whisenhunt said, "But fortunately we've got a week to get used to that."

The Cardinals have much less time to get accustomed to the media frenzy that comes with the Super Bowl, and they will lean on Warner's experience.

"Anytime you have a player that has Kurt's credentials, that has had the season that Kurt's had throughout this year, it commands respect," Whisenhunt said.

Whisenhunt also said he wants his team to enjoy the experience, but "we can't lose sight of the fact that we're here to play a game." He knows that trouble lurks in the party environment that leads up to Sunday's game.

"I don't think you can talk to them about it enough," Whisenhunt said. "I've talked to them about it and will talk to them about this again. That's something that's very important. ... The only thing is give them as much information as you can about it. It really goes back to the type of players that we have. They've done a really good job of handling this so far."

The Cardinals rolled up 95 points in playoff victories over the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles, heady stuff for a franchise that had two playoff victories in its entire history before this year.

Sean Morey, who made the Pro Bowl on special teams this year for Arizona, was part of the Steelers' Super Bowl championship and was brought to the Cardinals by Whisenhunt to help instill the attitude and work ethic of a winner.

Morey said that after Tuesday's media day, the team can focus "on the task at hand."

This isn't the first time the Cardinals have spent a week in the East. They stayed in suburban Washington after losing to the Redskins to prepare for the following Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

That didn't turn out so well. The Cardinals lost 56-35.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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