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Steelers ILB Sean Spence finally just another football player

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The long and winding road that Sean Spence has endured throughout his first three years in the NFL is well documented, but that road finally came to a cross roads today in training camp.

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

When Steelers fans think of Sean Spence, most immediately talk about the knee injury. What comes afterwards is normally a faithful boost of hope that the once coveted inside linebacker from the University of Miami actually returns to the field one day.

Spence has had people question whether he will ever be able to walk without a limp, he has had coaches say that it would be a miracle if he ever plays the game again, and he has had countless fans and media ask him repeated questions about his knee.

For Sean Spence, he was always the player on the outside looking in. Whether it was rehabbing from the horrific knee injury, or in 2013 being healthy enough to practice with the team, only to have a freak injury to his hand sideline him again for the remainder of the season. Spence has always been the injured player chomping at the bit to get his chance back on the field.

That chance happened at offseason workouts this year when Spence was given the green light to participate in team activities for the first time since his rookie preseason. Even though he left OTAs and minicamp unscathed, the question still awaited him: "Can Sean Spence's knee withstand the pounding of contact in the NFL?"

Although one day with contact doesn't necessarily mean he is out of the woods, it is a huge step in the right direction. Spence completed the first day of contact in this 2014 Steelers training camp, and for the first time in three years, Spence is just another football player on the field competing.

As Spence told Will Graves of the AP, he was truly thankful that he was a part of the Steelers organization throughout this process.

"They [the Steelers] could have given up on me a long time ago." "I'm just so thankful."

Whether you see an interview or hear Spence speak, you can tell he is truly thankful to just be a part of the team. Just another player out there playing the game that he grew up playing and loves so much. All it took was one hit to snap Spence right back into the swing of things.

"Soon as I got the first hit, I was good to go," "like back to football."

No more talk of the injury, no more wondering about rehab, but just another football player.