Roethlisberger, Cushing, Holmes return to teams

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Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes have something else in common aside from their touchdown that won the 2009 Super Bowl. Both came off four-game NFL suspensions Monday.

Roethlisberger returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Holmes is back with the New York Jets. They are among seven players whose bans ended, including last season's top defensive rookie, Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans.

"I couldn't wait to get here," Roethlisberger said on his first day back with the team he led to titles after the 2005 and 2008 seasons.

Cushing was one of three linebackers suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, along with Gerald McRath of the Tennessee Titans and Robert James of the Atlanta Falcons.

Wide receiver Holmes, traded by Pittsburgh to the Jets in the offseason, Bills tight end Shawn Nelson and Broncos running back LenDale White were sidelined for substance abuse. White is on injured reserve and out for the season.

Roethlisberger was accused of, but not charged with, sexually assaulting a Georgia college student following a night of drinking in a college bar March 5. Despite not being charged, he was suspended under the NFL's personal conduct policy.

He spent his Sundays watching the Steelers on TV and feeling like, well, a helpless fan.

"I have no fingernails left," he said. "It was hard, it really was, to watch them at home. I was on the edge of my chair, trying to keep busy. It was tough, but it was fun watching them win."

The Steelers have started 3-1 and are tied atop the AFC North with Baltimore, which won at Pittsburgh 17-14 on Sunday.

Also at 3-1 are the Texans without Cushing, the Jets minus Holmes, and the Falcons without James.

Cushing was not available for comment Monday, but will practice Wednesday and play on Sunday against the Giants, coach Gary Kubiak said. Cushing will go through an individual workout Tuesday.

Cushing was suspended in May for testing positive for HCG, a fertility drug that's on the NFL's banned substances list. HCG can be used to mask steroid use.

He started every game at outside linebacker last season, making 133 tackles.

"First off, I don't worry about him working," Kubiak said. "I know he's a worker and been putting himself through everything he can possibly put himself through without playing a game. You know, there is a level of sharpness, just from not playing, not taking all the snaps. Everybody on the team is about 250 snaps ahead of him right now in an NFL season. But he's proven that he can play missing practice; he did that last year."

Holmes, whose spectacular catch in the back of the end zone against Arizona won the Super Bowl for Pittsburgh in February 2009, was projected as the Jets' top deep threat when he was acquired. Coach Rex Ryan isn't worried if Holmes will be ready to contribute Monday night against Minnesota.

"Like I say, I don't think he's ready to play," Ryan said with a smile. "I don't think you can even consider defending him. Maybe that's the best way to do it. Then, let him light you up for 200 yards."

Nelson might become an injury exemption on the Buffalo roster after he revealed Monday that he underwent groin surgery four weeks ago.

"I'm excited to back with my brothers on the football field," he said, adding the down time was tormenting. "It's no fun being at home. I was able to be here and be in the meetings, and I could do everything but be at practice and go to the games. It's not fun being at home on Sunday watching those guys compete and I can't be there with them."

McRath worked out Monday and will work again Tuesday with Titans strength coach Steve Watterson. Coach Jeff Fisher plans to work McRath back into practice on special teams and defense. McRath worked with the first-team defense at outside linebacker most of the offseason and much of training camp at that spot before his snaps tapered off before his suspension took effect.

"How much he'll play, I don't know. Understand he may be a little rusty," Fisher said.


AP Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr., in Florham Park, N.J., Alan Robinson in Pittsburgh, Chris Duncan in Houston, and Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this story.