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mesaSteeler
03-10-2011, 07:37 AM
Steelers Notebook: Health care tied to 18-game issue
Thursday, March 10, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11069/1130989-66.stm

Players might not fight an 18-game schedule as hard as they so vocally said they would during the past season if Hines Ward is any kind of barometer.

Ward criticized Roger Goodell's plan to add two games to the regular season loud and often but now seems to accept the fact that it might happen in a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Steelers receiver predicted the players would go for the idea if they receive better post-career health care from the NFL in return.

"If they do, we still have to go out there and play it," Ward said in an interview this week. "It depends on how they do retirement plans. If you add two more games and talk about safety, you have to do something on the back end."

What Ward wants is better and continued health insurance when a player's career ends.

"We'd jeopardize our bodies for two more regular-season games so if they can do something special with health insurance I think the players will go for it," Ward said.

"If they don't do anything on the back end, a lot of guys question if they want to play 18 -- if they even can. If they do add 18, you won't see guys like myself and James Farrior playing this long. Only quarterbacks. The life span of running backs will definitely be shortened. If we have to play 18 games, along with that you have to take care of us on the back end, it'll be all right."

Ward, while practicing for his upcoming competition on "Dancing With the Stars," offered some more opinions on various topics involving the Steelers.

On if he is worried that the team's best cornerback, Ike Taylor, might leave as a free agent:

"I'm worried we might lose a lot of people."

Among other likely unrestricted free agents once there is a new CBA are Willie Colon, Mewelde Moore, Chris Hoke, William Gay, Matt Spaeth, Trai Essex, Jonathan Scott and Shaun Suisham.

"Ike had a phenonmenal year. LaMarr Woodley got franchised and I'm excited about that. I want Ike back. He's a big component of our secondary, an emotional leader back there. If he gets a chance to test the market and it works out for the best, maybe we'll have him back."

On whether the Steelers need to draft another wide receiver to complement Ward, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown:

"I wouldn't put it past them to find another receiver. I don't think that's one of our main needs. We have some up and coming guys who had a breakout year. Mike had phenomenal year. But knowing them, I wouldn't put it past them to draft a receiver."

His change of attitude from last week, when he was pessimistic about a labor agreement, to his more optimistic outlook this week:

"Charlie sent me a couple of e-mails," Ward said of quarterback Charlie Batch, who has attended most of the negotiating sessions as a member of the NFLPA executive board. "He said things are taking strides but they are a long way apart. We'll see on Friday."

The deadline for the CBA was extended by one day last Thursday and then by a week. Another extension could occur if there is no agreement by tomorrow.

"When they added the extension, it was encouraging. Until that point, I thought it was over. Things look like they're going in the right direction. Both sides are trying to do it. If it doesn't happen, it'll cause a whole mess. You really can't do anything with the guys drafted. New coaches can't talk to their players. It makes it difficult.

"If [a lockout] does happen, I don't know how any team can start the season. They won't get any preparation."

On former teammate Carnell Lake joining the staff as secondary coach:

"That's exciting. Carnell is a perfectionist. Watching him train when I was younger, he'd be in the weight room at 6 in the morning and the last one to leave. They'll learn real quick from him. I'm glad to have him on our staff, it's a great asset to our organization."

No workout plans

Ward said a few days after the Steelers lost the Super Bowl that he and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had briefly discussed getting together with other receivers to have some passing camps if there is a long lockout.

Players on other teams reportedly have discussed holding workouts together in such a scenario. However, Steelers player representative Ryan Clark said no such talk has occurred among his teammates.

"We didn't talk about it all," Clark said. "We just lost the Super Bowl; what we were going to do in the offseason was not on our mind.

"For us, just get yourself in the best shape possible. What we have over most teams is veteran leadership. We have our core and all of our coaches returning other than a DB coach. There's not pressure on us like a Cleveland Browns team, you know?"

Quick hits

Add punter Daniel Sepulveda to the list of players in whom the Steelers gave a restricted free agent tender. Sepulveda, who spent last season on injured reserve after his ACL was torn for a third time since college, would be unrestricted if they return to the old rules in a new CBA. ... Steelers president Art Rooney II, a member of the 10-man management executive council, participated in Wednesday's labor negotiations in Washington. ... Scouts and coaches have begun attending individual workouts for draft prospects and have scheduled visits for up to 30 of them in Pittsburgh, which can occur at any time.

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