Hang 'em up, Hines
Thursday, 01 March 2012 01:00
Written by Bob Smizik
The coaches who know him the best, respect him the most and care about him the greatest have spoken clearly: Hines Ward can’t play any more.
Ward, statistically the greatest Steelers wide receiver and a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate, doesn’t believe them. That’s too bad.
The advice here to Ward is simple: Walk away, Hines. Walk away with your dignity in tact, your pride swelling and your memories wonderful.
But that’s not likely to happen. In the wake of the Steelers announcing they will release him within the next two weeks, Ward, the man with the perpetual chip on his shoulder, did what he always does in these situations.
He's going to prove wrong the people who say he can't do something. That’s a mistake.
In a prepared statement, Ward said, `` I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season."
That’s too bad. Few great athletes know when to quit. Most think they can produce for one more year. Most times they can’t.
It didn’t take a great scout to see Ward had lost most of his skills. He couldn’t get open. When he caught the ball, he couldn’t get down field.
Ward has two years remaining on his contract with the Steelers at $4 million annually. He said he’d take a pay cut. The team never gave him that opportunity.
Steelers fans have been down this path before with Franco Harris. After a bitter salary dispute with the Steelers in the summer of 1984, Harris signed on with the Seattle Seahawks. It was a minor tragedy. Eight games, six starts, 68 carries, 170 yards, an average of 2.5.
Ward may not get that far. It’s possible a team will take a chance on him. The Steelers are not infallible in their judgment. But getting a chance and making the most of it are two different things.
``This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end,'' Ward said. ``I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago.
``I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world. To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories.’’
The thanks is all on our end, Hines.
Now do us one more favor. Announce your retirement. Give the SteelerNation a chance to send you off in grand style at next season’s first home game. End it clean. End it as a Steeler.
(I really hope Hines retires and goes out on top. I doubt he will but I hope he does.Maybe Franco will give Hines a call and help convince him. - mesa)