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Packers' Walden encouraged by progress of injured ankle

By Simon Evans

DALLAS (Reuters) - Green Bay Packers linebacker Erik Walden, suffering from a nagging ankle injury, said he hopes to be close to 100 percent healthy for Sunday's Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Walden practiced Wednesday for the first time after being sidelined by the injury picked up in the Packers' 21-14 win over the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship on January 23.

"It went pretty well, it's still sore," he told Reuters on Thursday. "There is stiffness but I feel real good about the progress that I am making every day as far as treatment.

"There are still little things that are bothering me, as far as exploding and so on but I am making progress and hopefully I will be close to 100 percent by Sunday."

Walden admitted taking on 275-pound (125kg) offensive linemen posed a problem in practice.

"It is the weight of a lineman, trying to go through him, that's the only problem I had as far as the pain but I feel good," he said. "I iced it for four or five hours after practice and feel good about where I am heading.

"It's one game. I feel I can suck it up for one game."

Walden, who previously played with Kansas City and Miami, was without a team in October when the Packers signed him and he has played a key role in their run to the Super Bowl.

The 25-year-old, three-year NFL veteran said he had to fight the fear that he might miss out on his first Super Bowl appearance.

"It crosses your mind but I tried to stay positive because it is mind over matter that is one of the formulas I used," he said.

"If you are telling yourself you are hurt then you are going to be hurt. So I've been psyching myself up. My mind controls everything and I've been telling myself my ankle is going to be fine by Sunday.

"It's a no-brainer about me planning to play. You don't get this opportunity all the time and still hobbling a little bit, I still have plenty to offer and I can contribute with my team mates," he said.

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)

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