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Re: WR Ward turns down Steelers' offer
Now there is talk of a hold-out....
By Mike Prisuta
Thursday, July 28, 2005
As the football season at long last approaches, there's genuine anticipation brewing on the South Side this week, but it's accompanied by a legitimate sense of apprehension.
Each day that comes and goes without a contract extension for Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward makes it that much more plausible, if not that much more probable, that Ward will be a no-show when training camp opens Sunday.
Only Ward knows for certain if he'll report.
If he's smart, he'll be the first player checking into Rooney Hall.
f he's anywhere but St. Vincent College come Sunday evening, he'll be making a major miscalculation. He'll also be risking what could easily turn out to be a gravy-train association with the Steelers that can last for the remainder of Ward's career and beyond.
Ward has wanted that extension ever since the Steelers bestowed one upon Tommy Maddox prior to the 2004 campaign.
The Steelers politely declined Hines' request, citing Maddox as a rare exception to their policy of not negotiating such deals until a player had just one year remaining on his present agreement.
They also promised Ward he'd be their first priority when it was time to engage in similar discussions prior to this season.
The Steelers have been true to their word on that score, and they've done nothing since but express a heartfelt appreciation of and respect for Ward whenever the subject has come up. They've also been sincere in their efforts to get the deal done, optimistic all along that the deal would get done and steadfast in their belief that the deal had to get done.
It hasn't yet.
Although neither side is divulging the numbers being bandied about, one would have to suspect compensation is the major stumbling block.
Recent history, the Steelers' history since moving into Heinz Field, suggests that the economics will work themselves out eventually as long as both sides remain professional about it. Cornerbacks Dewayne Washington and Chad Scott were two of the most recent but far from the only two players to be richly rewarded by an organization that believed both had earned as much.
Their new deals were announced on reporting day in 2001.
As long as Ward is around for reporting day 2005, a resolution to his present dilemma is inevitable.
Failing that, his dealings with the Steelers will turn problematic if not downright combative, and once that happens, anything's possible, including the 2005 season ending up as Ward's last with the Steelers.
No matter what advice he's getting from his agents, Ward's best option is to show up, do his job and continue being the leader he's always identified himself as being.
Coming off a 15-1 season and heading into one ripe with possibilities, this is no time for distractions and temper tantrums, particularly from a player who has always maintained he puts the team first at all times.
A holdout, conversely, would reveal that while there may be no "i" in team, Ward is acutely aware that you can't spell "Hines" without one.