Unfortunate incident? The pep talk?">
Unfortunate incident? The pep talk?">

Ward apologized for actions before giving pep talk

<b> PITTSBURGH - </b> Hines Ward got up and gave the offense a good, old-fashioned pep talk Monday. That much we knew. But that was only the end of the story. <br><br> "It was definitely an unfortunate incident," said linebacker Jason Gildon. <br><br> Unfortunate incident? The pep talk?

"Given where we are, there are bigger things to worry about," Gildon said. "I really didn't hear the comments that were made. I just heard of them second hand. At the same time we're sitting here 2 and 3 and the biggest problem we have is righting the ship and I think that's what we should be concentrating on."

Apparently, Ward's real feelings came out during Sunday night's 33-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns. He complained about not getting the ball enough and then left the field before the game was over.

Ward caught two passes for 55 yards. Both catches were made during the Steelers' only touchdown drive. Ward's previous low for receptions this season was four in the win over Cincinnati.

Ward was critical of the play calling, but the next day apologized for his outburst. Then he gave his teammates a pep talk.

"I apologized for my reaction after the game," Ward said. "I didn't want people to think I was selfish. It was me being frustrated. To go out there and, hell, to lose to the Cleveland Browns on national TV, I was disgusted. When I saw them downing the ball I just left for the locker room. I didn't want to shake nobody's hand or anything.

"I heard people saw it on TV. That's why I wanted to apologize to the team. If my reaction was a selfish reaction, as far as 'throw me the ball' and stuff like that, I wanted to make it clear that wasn't the case."

Ward was asked if he used the words 'Throw me the ball.'

"At that time, yeah, because I wanted to help contribute," he said. "I wasn't even injured. I didn't even feel like I played the game. Usually on Monday I'm sore from getting hit and making hits, but I wasn't any of that. I was just frustrated because I wanted to help the team more. I felt I could've done more. If anyone thought that was selfish, I apologize, but nobody came up to me and said anything."

Nobody said anything until Gildon let it slip. He'd heard of Ward's comments and figured reporters had, too.

"You can't read much into that from the standpoint of 'Is this a selfish guy?'" Gildon said. "I've played with Hines long enough now and I definitely don't think of him as a selfish person." Ward has a history of appearing selfish while expressing frustration, but history also shows he's been correct with his statements.

Ward became upset early in the 2000 season when second-year pro Troy Edwards was elevated to the starting flanker spot over Ward, even though Ward was coming off a 61-catch season. Ward quickly regained and held the spot after Edwards suffered an opening-game injury. Ward has gone on to become the second most prolific pass-catcher in Steelers history with 363 receptions.

Ward also popped off to the media during the 2002 training camp because he felt he was wasting practice time as a slot receiver so that Edwards could work at flanker in the three-receiver sets. Ward was vindicated when Edwards was traded a few weeks later.

Ward's probably on the money this time, too. He was visibly upset when Plaxico Burress dropped a pass inside the Cleveland 5 in the third quarter. Ward also returned to the bench and slammed his helmet after Burress jumped before a fourth-and-two play. There aren't any problems, though, between Ward and quarterback Tommy Maddox.

"Yeah. Me and Tommy, that's not even an issue," Ward said. "Watching him getting hit the way he was getting hit, that's the reason he couldn't get me the ball. At the time of the game, that was my reaction, but after watching the film, that's why I stood up and apologized and told them how I felt."

According to Maddox, the post-apology pep talk was much needed.

"I had talked to him before that, so I knew how he felt," Maddox said. "For him to step up in front of the team and challenge us and let us know that we are all in this together was a thing that was great to see him do.

Steel City Insider Top Stories