OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) Haloti Ngata hated watching football on television during his four-game suspension for using a substance banned by the NFL.
The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle wasn't allowed to be with the Baltimore Ravens during practice or at their final four games. All he could do was hope they could win without him so he could play in the postseason.
''It was definitely rough,'' Ngata said Tuesday, his first day back on the field. ''It felt like I was in retirement watching the games, watching football during the season at home. It felt weird, but I was glad we were able to get the wins and get into the playoffs.''
He regrets using the amphetamine Adderall, which is used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Because it is often used as a stimulant, Adderall is banned by the NFL without a prescription.
''I made a mistake,'' he acknowledged.
The 30-year-old Ngata is expected to start Saturday night in Pittsburgh, and he just might be more energetic than the blockers assigned to keep him off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
''I feel amazing. Guys are yelling `Fresh legs' all the time,'' Ngata said. ''I just feel like a young kid, being able to jog around. It's great to be back with the fellas.''
And they couldn't be happier to have him back.
''He's one of our guys. He's a good teammate and a good player,'' quarterback Joe Flacco said. ''It's great to see him and Terrell (Suggs) walking out to practice together. It feels good.''
Suggs wore a smile that almost matched Ngata's. The two have been fixtures on the Baltimore defense since the start of the 2006 season and own matching Super Bowl rings. Both hope to add another to their collection in the weeks ahead.
''It couldn't happen at a better time,'' Suggs said of Ngata's return. ''He was missed a lot in the locker room, especially by me. The locker room is back to being complete. It's good to have one of the best interior linemen in the game going into a big playoff game like this. It was a big lift.''
The Ravens ran a light practice Tuesday, so it was difficult to tell whether Ngata is in game shape. When he showed up at the team complex on Monday, coach John Harbaugh gave the 340-pounder a playful poke in the stomach and deemed him ready to go.
''I'm sure he's fine,'' the coach said. ''He's been training. That's what he told me. He looks good and I'm sure he is. I'm sure he's busting out of his skin, ready to go.''
Although that's an exaggeration, it isn't that far from the truth. Ngata is thankful his teammates did their part to get him back on the field this season, and now he's poised to pay them back.
''I just feel like I owe these guys,'' he said, ''so I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team.''
Asked if he will seek to get a prescription for the drug or just stop using it, Ngata replied, ''We'll just see what happens. Right now I'm just focused on the Steelers.''
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