Ward says nothing left for him to prove
March 22, 2012 9:21 am
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
What really prompted Hines Ward to call it a career this week without still trying to find a spot on some other NFL team's roster? That famous chip on his shoulder was finally knocked off and it was done by him.
Ward went on a week's vacation after the Steelers released him Feb. 29. He shut off his cell phone and contemplated his options.
"I knew I didn't want to play for another team," Ward said in a telephone interview Wednesday from his home in Atlanta. "But the Old Hines, I was always trying to prove a point -- that I could play in this league, be a starter, things everyone would tell me I couldn't do. I was still in that mentality that I wanted to show the world."
He even set a new goal for himself. He became only the eighth player to catch 1,000 career receptions in the 2011 season finale. He set his sites on surpassing No. 7 in '12.
"At the end of the day, I said what more do I have to prove? I caught 1,000 balls, eighth on the all-time list. I was only  catches away from seventh, that was going to be my next goal, to catch Isaac Bruce.
"But I don't have anything else to prove. I think I gave it all I possibly could. I looked at the Franco Harris situation and wondered if he ever regretted it, playing in another uniform, another city.
"Was it worth it? It wasn't worth it to me."
One day after Ward announced his retirement from the Steelers and the NFL, he received another job offer in football -- as a high school coach.
"I got an email from the athletic director, asking if I had any interest," Ward said with a laugh about his first job offer in retirement. "I woke up this morning and it was the first thing I read."
The offer came from the prestigious private Westminster School in Atlanta. Ward lives in suburban Atlanta.
"I just thought we could open the door and talk to him and see if there was anything there," Westminster athletic director Rusty Hudson said. "If we could figure out a way to get him on our staff, that would be great."
Ward, though, is not ready to jump at any offers now and coaching football is not on his radar.
He will take his mother on a vacation, probably Hawaii, to celebrate her 65th birthday, relax a little and then decide what to do next. He said he has had many opportunities that his lawyer and business manager, Andy Ree, will initially sift through.
He promised whatever he does, his presence will be felt in Pittsburgh, including those Sunday events in the fall at Heinz Field.
"I still want to have strong ties in Pittsburgh," Ward said a day after his emotional news conference to formally announce his retirement. "I have charitable things and I still want to be a big part of that. I may not be at every game but you'll definitely see my presence in Pittsburgh. That is home away from home. I can spend time in Atlanta during the week, and whatever opportunity there is for me I'll fly up there."
Ward can begin what Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll often called his "life's work" at peace with his former life because, he said, he finally realized he had nothing left to prove.
And that is one gigantic admittance for Ward.
"I don't have any regrets and that's what I talked about with Jerome more than anything," Ward said of an earlier iconic Steelers retiree, his friend Jerome Bettis.
He asked The Bus if he still wanted to play when he retired, and what he did to prevent himself from missing the game. Bettis also lives in the Atlanta area.
"He and I are going to play golf a little bit down here," Ward said. "I missed out a lot of time being a dad and being a son. My mom is moving into my house this summer and I get to take my son to school every day."
Ward does worry a little about the loss of leadership on the 2012 Steelers with the retirements and/or releases of him and other veterans such as James Farrior, Aaron Smith, Chris Hoke and Bryant McFadden and possibly more. However, he is more concerned about what will happen to his old receiving corps if another team signs restricted free agent Mike Wallace.
"That is a scary situation, it's a crapshoot. You don't really know what's going to happen, what offers might be out there. There may be a team no one really knows about to step up and offer big money.
"The Denver Broncos, they still have plenty of money left. You never know. I don't want to see Mike go. I think he can do something special in Pittsburgh, but he has to do what's best for Mike."
If Wallace and unrestricted free agent Jerricho Cotchery depart, it would leave the Steelers with only Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders on the roster from last season. In that circumstance, who knows? Maybe Ward could pull a Brett Favre and unretire.
"You now what, so many people said that, I just laugh about it," Ward said with a laugh, albeit only a slight one. "I haven't even thought about it. I'm trying to close the chapter on that book."
Yeah, but it might be a good idea for him to stay in shape for the next few months, just in case.
"I'm always going to stay in shape," said Ward, who plays an important bit part in this summer's release of "The Dark Knight Rises."
"You never know, I might get a movie deal."
NOTE -- The Steelers announced the signings of TE Wes Lyons, a graduate of Woodland Hills High School, and fullback Will Johnson. Both played at West Virginia.