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Old 09-07-2009, 07:03 AM   #1
mesaSteeler
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Default Ageless Hines keeps on ticking

Ageless Hines keeps on ticking
Monday, September 07, 2009
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09250/996174-87.stm

Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward has made hundreds of bigger, more significant catches, to be sure. But the grab he made in the exhibition game against the Buffalo Bills Aug. 29 -- he stretched high and behind him to pull in a pass from Ben Roethlisberger for a 19-yard gain -- was extraordinary, especially for a man who is 33 and has spent the past 11 seasons risking life and limb by going across the middle of NFL fields. Mike Tomlin was so moved that he offered Ward another contract extension on the spot.

The coach was joking, I think.

When Ward is involved, though, you never know for sure.

The Steelers just did a new deal with Ward in the offseason, signing him through 2013. It was done without the acrimony that preceded his new contract before the '05 season when he was a training-camp holdout. The team is happy. "They don't just give you money around here. Obviously, they still see something in me," Ward said. He also is thrilled. "I know I got it good here."

Here's the neat part about Ward's contract: He plans on fulfilling it even though he'll be 37 by the end of the '13 season.

The man always has dreamed big and chased those dreams relentlessly despite, as he likes to point out, others telling him he can't accomplish them.

I'm thinking that uncompromising determination is going to carry him all the way to the Hall of Fame.

"I don't see why I can't do it," Ward said of playing several more seasons. "I'm still getting open against the other team's No. 1 cornerback, still getting separation. And the way coach Tomlin protects me, not beating me up in training camp, giving me Wednesdays off during the season ... That's going to keep me healthy and keep me fresh. Coach Tomlin knows it's not how you get to Sunday, it's what you do on Sunday."

On, in the case this week, Thursday night.

What a comforting sight Ward will be for Roethlisberger when the Steelers open defense of their Super Bowl title against the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field. Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes has turned into a star and is a terrific deep threat. Heath Miller is as dependable catching the ball as any tight end in the league. But when the Steelers need a big catch on third down, Roethlisberger still looks for Ward first.

Smart man, Big Ben.

A big season should put Ward in the top 10 on the NFL's career receptions list. He has 800 catches. He also needs just 220 receiving yards for 10,000, another of the many franchise records he holds.

"I was thinking about it in the offseason. '800 catches! Damn, that's a lot of catches!'" Ward said, grinning.

All of his numbers are staggering for multiple reasons. One, he has played with six quarterbacks: Kordell Stewart, Mike Tomczak, Kent Graham, Tommy Maddox, Charlie Batch and Roethlisberger. "I never had a Joe Montana like Jerry Rice did or a Troy Aikman like Michael Irvin did -- until now," Ward said of Roethlisberger. Two, he has caught a lot of balls in bad weather and sloppy conditions at Three Rivers Stadium and Heinz Field unlike, say, NFL receiving stars Marvin Harrison and Cris Carter, who played in domes. Three, he plays for a successful organization that mostly plays from ahead in games and tries to kill clock by running the ball instead of playing from behind and throwing on every down. And four, the Steelers long have believed in winning with a power running game.

"That's why I think comparing my stats to some other guys is like comparing apples and oranges," Ward said. "All I know is nothing was ever given to me. So much hard work went into it. That's why my career means so much to me. It's not all about stats. It's about playing football and having fun."

That wasn't always the case with Ward. "Stats used to mean everything to me," he said. Then, he found that the joy of winning was even better. As he likes to mentor Holmes, "'We don't play for stats around here, we play for rings.'"

Ward mentioned Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. "I love him. He's a phenomenal wideout. When we played them last year, he had like 10 catches for 100-some yards. But we killed them." Ward also brought up Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions. "A phenomenal athlete. He catches balls all day. But they didn't win a game ... I tell Santonio all the time, 'Don't get caught up in the Pro Bowls and the fantasy league stuff. You can catch 100 balls every year, but, if we lose, what fun is that?'"

Don't misunderstand. Although winning a third championship and maybe getting a fourth to match legendary Steelers receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth is what drives Ward most, he still has personal goals. The big one is 1,000 catches. If he gets to that big number, he has to be a lock for the Hall of Fame, right? When you combine it with his multiple Super Bowl rings, his Super Bowl XL MVP honor, his four Pro Bowls and his reputation as one of the NFL's all-time great blocking receivers?

"I've thought about it," Ward said. He admitted to looking up the statistics of those receivers in the Hall of Fame, that apples-and-oranges business notwithstanding. "I really don't know what to think about my chances. I don't know what criteria they use. All I can do is play football and leave it up to the voters. Right now, it's enough for me that, when you talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers' wide receivers, my name is mentioned with Swann and Stallworth. It's enough for me having all of the franchise's receiving records. This is the top franchise in the league, you know?"

The point is difficult to argue, especially with the Steelers playing this season to repeat as champions, make it three Super Bowls in five years and, arguably, become the Team of the Decade. There are many reasons for that success. Ward is high on the list, right with the rock-solid Rooney ownership, the coaching stability with Tomlin and Bill Cowher before him, the defensive genius of coordinator Dick LeBeau, the ferocious play of LeBeau's guys and, of course, Roethlisberger.

One more really neat thing?

"I don't feel like I'm anywhere near being done," Ward said.

I'm not willing to tell the man he can't play until he's 37.

Are you?

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09250...#ixzz0QQBj9gEH
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Old 09-07-2009, 07:15 AM   #2
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Default Re: Ageless Hines keeps on ticking

Nice read thanks. I like Ward alot and hope he plays forever but in reality we all know that they will come a day he will slow down. I hope he can play out his contract with Pittsburgh and retire on top. I just hope he can play at a high level and not loose any speed these last few years.
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