Unlike T.O., Ward held out but didn't tear apart team
Posted: Tuesday January 31, 2006 6:25PM; Updated: Wednesday February 1, 2006 1:01AM
Hines Ward became the first Steeler in 12 years to hold out for any length of time, but he stayed professional during the ordeal.
DETROIT -- Hines Ward is my hero.
I almost want to dub him O.T., because he's the anti-T.O.
Think back to last summer and the sagas that unfolded at opposite ends of Pennsylvania. Two unhappy star receivers. Two potential time bombs tied to festering contract disputes. One of them went off and helped ruin a team's season. One of them didn't.
The Eagles' Terrell Owens got sent home early in disgrace, banished from the team he seemed determined to frustrate at every turn. The Steelers' Ward is still playing, and playing superbly. And on Sunday at Ford Field in Super Bowl XL, he'll suit up with a chance to put the perfect ending to his season.
Owens didn't hold out, but he couldn't have made more trouble for Philadelphia if he had. Ward chose to stay away from training camp for two weeks, becoming the first Steeler to do so in 12 years, but somehow he did so without making his contractual issue Pittsburgh's proverbial iceberg in the North Atlantic.
That's why Hines Ward is my hero. He got his money, but he got it by doing things the right way. And it wasn't by stealing a page from Owens' self-destructive methods. At the beginning of the season, Ward and Owens were lumped together in discontent. But nobody has had any trouble separating their stories these days.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever been through,'' said Ward this week, of his 15-day camp holdout, which lasted until mid-August, when he reported to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., without a new deal. "It's amazing how my season started off with my contract situation, and now I end up with the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. I would have never imagined that it would turn out the way it did.''
The way it turned out was the non-T.O. way. Once Ward came back to work, the Steelers and his agent went to work on striking a deal. In the first week of September, Ward agreed to the richest contract in Steelers history, a five-year, $27.5 million extension that included a $9 million signing bonus.
Although he'd never put it this way, Ward's basic approach during his contract situation was to watch the combustible way Owens was handling his business, and then do the opposite. Kind of a "What would T.O. do?'' bracelet in reverse.