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83-Steelers-43
08-27-2006, 07:42 AM
Cook: When it comes to self-motivation, Ward has no peers
Sunday, August 27, 2006

By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Can you picture Terry Bradshaw saying something like this in his prime?

"Don't forget about me."

Can you imagine this from Lynn Swann or any of the other Super Bowl heroes the year after they are named MVP in the big game?

"The young wide receivers on this team are good. Nate Washington, Santonio Holmes, Willie Reid ... They're spectacular players and they're going to do great things. But don't forget about me. I'm still a playmaker. I haven't lost that yet. Yeah, I might be a little older, but I'm no less of a ballplayer."

Do we really need that reminder from Hines Ward?

Of course not.

But I'm here to tell you that hearing it from Ward last week was a beautiful thing.

Not because he has anything to prove.

Because he has done the impossible and found a new way to motivate himself even as he stands on top of the NFL world as the Super Bowl MVP.

Ward's hamstring injury, which has left much of Pittsburgh in a collective hysteria, might turn out to be the best thing to happen to the Steelers this season.

It's OK that Ward might be the most insecure Super Bowl MVP in history. He needs that motivation to be successful. He needs to believe he's the underdog. "I've always played with a big chip," he said. "I have to play with a big chip."

Early on, Ward felt he had to prove he belonged in the NFL after being a third-round draft pick. Later, he had to show he could start on a team that drafted wide receivers Troy Edwards and Plaxico Burress in the first round. Then, he had to prove he could make the Pro Bowl. After that, he had to show he could get the big money. Then, he had to prove he was worth the big money.

All of it took Ward to extraordinary heights.

But what's left after you kiss the Vince Lombardi Trophy and they name you the Super Bowl MVP?

Thank goodness for that hammy problem.

That doesn't mean it's not a real injury, even a potentially serious one. Ward couldn't play in the Steelers' first three exhibition games and almost certainly will miss the final one Thursday night against Carolina. He said the injury is different than his hamstring injury last season. He had to miss the Jacksonville game -- the only regular-season game he has missed in his eight-year career -- but came back to play the next week.

"I thought it would be the same this time -- miss a week and then come back -- but it's in a different spot," Ward said. "When I cut, I feel it. I know there's nothing torn in there or even pulled. It's just a strain. That's what's so frustrating, that something so minor can be so painful."

There's no question Ward's injury is legitimate.

Just don't be surprised if opposing teams end up paying for it.

Ward has convinced himself there are people out there who think his injury is a signal he's breaking down now that he's 30.

"That's ridiculous," he said, fairly spitting out the words. "I don't see any of my skills fading. It's not like I've gotten slower. My game has never been predicated on speed, anyway. I can still get open and still make plays for you. I've gotten open out here [at training camp] on one good leg."

Ward also has convinced himself people are saying that maybe he spent too much time celebrating in the offseason and not enough training.

Yes, he traveled the world, he said. But he always found a way to work out.

"I'm lighter now than I've ever been. I'm 205 pounds. I played at 210-212 last season."

Maybe most significantly, Ward has convinced himself that people are wondering if he has lost his passion now that he has enjoyed the ultimate success.

"I hear 'em ask, 'What's his motivation?' I'll tell you what it is. I want to win another one." Then, later, "They ask, 'What's his motivation?' Well, watch me. I'll show you. I'm just as hungry as ever. I don't want to be a guy who had some success and let it slip away."

If you saw the look in Ward's eyes, you'd believe him.

That's why it's hard to think Ward won't be ready for the Steelers' regular-season opener against Miami Sept. 7. This is a guy who long has been the ultimate gamer. He's always done whatever it takes to play. Last season, he said he took repeated pain-killing injections to play with his hamstring injury. "I played in the Super Bowl with a sprained shoulder joint," Ward said. "I fell on it in practice the Friday before the game. Saturday was ice and treatment all day. Sunday was shoot it up and play."

That game turned out OK.

The guess here is this season will go pretty well for Ward, too.

Maybe his game will suffer a bit until he gets his timing down with Ben Roethlisberger. But he has played enough with Big Ben to think that won't be a serious problem. It's safe to say he'll still be the first guy Roethlisberger looks for.

Ward said he can't wait.

"Once I do get out there, I'm going to catch a lot of balls and make a lot of plays and knock some people's heads off."

On Sept. 7?

"On Sept. 7," Ward said, steely.

Bad hammy? What bad hammy?

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06239/716696-87.stm

BlackNGold203
08-27-2006, 08:17 AM
Some day...when you look up "Pittsburgh Steeler" in the dictionary...you'll see two pictures...Jack Lambert...and Hines Ward....:cool: :cool:

lamberts-lost-tooth
08-27-2006, 08:28 AM
Some day...when you look up "Pittsburgh Steeler" in the dictionary...you'll see two pictures...Jack Lambert...and Hines Ward....:cool: :cool:

Prophetic..and right on the money!!! ..Work ethic, confidence, and self sacrifice...Waht more could you want from a player? Even Fans who cheer for other teams have told me ..."Man, he runs every route, like the ball is going his way...and if it doesnt you KNOW he is going to clean the clock of the first defender he sees."...He is the anti-Owens!!!

83-Steelers-43
08-27-2006, 08:31 AM
"Once I do get out there, I'm going to catch a lot of balls and make a lot of plays and knock some people's heads off."

That quote right there put a huge smile on my face this morning. You have to love this guy even if your not a Steeler fan. In a day and age where athletes are pampered, starting fights with their coaching staff during playoff games and arguing with their QB's, it's refreshing to know that there are still some athletes out there with class and an understanding of what it means to be a football player.

SteelCityMan786
08-27-2006, 01:03 PM
Some day...when you look up "Pittsburgh Steeler" in the dictionary...you'll see two pictures...Jack Lambert...and Hines Ward....:cool: :cool:

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