The odds that Ben Roethlisberger will start in Monday night's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars increased Wednesday, with the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback returning to the practice field only 10 days after an appendectomy.
"I feel good, better every day," said Roethlisberger, who missed last Thursday's season opening victory over the Miami Dolphins after battling his way back from the facial injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident this spring. "My stomach feels pretty good. Obviously, when someone cuts into your body, it's going to hurt a little bit. But for the most part, it feels real good."
The youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl championship, Roethlisberger has been cleared by team physicians to return to the field. Actually, Roethlisberger did a little individual work on the field a few days ago and on Tuesday threw to some receivers.
His surgery occurred on Sept. 3, after he reported to the team facility complaining of nausea and discomfort.
The third-year veteran, who suffered a broken jaw along with other facial fractures in the motorcycle accident, is known as a quick healer. And because surgeons typically perform appendectomies with the less-invasive laparoscopic technique now, the recovery time has been significantly reduced.
"Plus, the thing with Ben is that he doesn't like to miss games," said Hines Ward, who had an appendectomy a few years ago and sat out two preseason contests.
Even though Roethlisberger has been medically cleared, the final decision on whether he plays against the Jaguars will rest with coach Bill Cowher, who said Thursday that his quarterback "has progressed nicely" and could be a gametime decision Monday evening. Roethlisberger is officially listed as questionable on the Steelers' injury report. By definition, that means it is 50-50 that he will play.
Heightening the chances that Roethlisberger will make his first start since leading the Steelers past the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL is that the Pittsburgh quarterback has an extra day to prepare because of the Monday game. Roethlisberger was replaced by nine-year veteran Charlie Batch, who completed 15-of-25 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns in last week's opening-game victory over the Dolphins.
"The bottom line," Cowher said, "is making sure he's comfortable and can protect himself and [that] he's not going out there [worrying] about those things."
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.