Retired Steelers WR Ward receives vote of confidence for Canton
By Bob Cohn
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Former Steelers receiver Hines Ward is a solid Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate for reasons that go beyond statistics, according to voters who cited his blocking, leadership and character.
"I would think his chances are pretty good," Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic said. "I know his numbers won't be as sparkling as some of the receivers under consideration, but you have to think of what he did for the organization, in the locker room, as a leader of the team.
"He'll get a lot of credit for his blocking. You might not be able to cite this statistic or that statistic, but you have to believe what you saw. "
Ward retired Tuesday, three weeks after his release. He played 14 seasons, all with the Steelers, leading the club in receptions, yards and touchdown catches. He caught exactly 1,000 passes, eighth in league history.
Former San Francisco Chronicle writer Ira Miller termed Ward a "very interesting candidate" when he becomes eligible in five years.
"You have a lot of players in the Hall who are 'very good', and he's at the upper end of 'very good' and he might meet the criteria," said Miller, who noted that Ward's all-around play, Super Bowl wins and positive attitude are major pluses compared with flashy but controversial receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.
"He's a guy that played hard all the time," Miller said. "He played on teams that won championships. He was a Super Bowl MVP, and you didn't have his team try to get rid of him. ... The Hall of Fame would not be diminished by having Hines Ward in it."
Some voters cited the logjam that has kept such talented receivers as Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Andre Reed out of the Hall as possibly working against Ward. Another factor is who else will be on the ballot five years from now.
"I think he has a very good chance, but it might take a while," former Washington Post writer Len Shapiro said.
"It won't be a first-ballot thing," Somers said.
"Hines Ward definitely deserves a spot in Canton, for reasons that exceed 140 characters," tweeted Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter. "But the wait will be long."
Vito Stellino of Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union said Ward will be "in the conversation," adding that rules changes have helped inflate the numbers and made evaluating receivers more difficult.
"It's hard to figure out what makes a Hall of Fame (receiver) under these rules," he said.
Bob Cohn can be reached at email@example.com
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