While players such as Bettis feel the time is now to step forward and speak your mind, Ward has done that already, and he came away stung.">
While players such as Bettis feel the time is now to step forward and speak your mind, Ward has done that already, and he came away stung.">

Notebook: Ward takes step back

<b> PITTSBURGH -</b> Jerome Bettis says it's time for the leaders, "your playmakers," to step forward. Please excuse Hines Ward if he ignores the call to arms.<br><br> While players such as Bettis feel the time is now to step forward and speak your mind, Ward has done that already, and he came away stung.

"It seems everything I say gets blown out," said Ward. "I try to make some comments and be a stand-up guy but it seems like it ends up being a distraction more than a help. Hell, we all need to get better, that's each and everybody. Nobody's playing a perfect game. If anybody thinks they are, our record doesn't show that."

Near the end of the Oct. 5 loss to Cleveland, Ward left the field for the locker room as the final seconds were still ticking off. At some point, he admitted, almost a month ago, to saying "throw me the ball." The next day, he stood up during film session and gave the offense a pep talk. Since then, Ward has been unusually quiet during the hours the media patrols the locker room in search of quotes and information. Ward normally steps forward to answer any and all comers, but the last two weeks he's stayed back in the shadows of a deep locker.

"I'm going to keep my opinions to myself," he said. "I don't want to get in no trouble or be no distraction to the team or anything. Just go out there and do the best I can and try to do my job." Ward this week said "I didn't even say nothing about 'throw me the ball.' I don't even know where that came from," to back off a statement he made after the Cleveland game.

"It's not about me. It's about the bigger picture, about us trying to find a way to win a ball game. I thought me standing up in front of the team would help us do something, but maybe guys took it the wrong way."

Ward said there wasn't any fallout or reaction from teammates, only what has come back to him through the media, which was minor and confused at best.

"Winning solves everything," Ward said. "If we put up some wins everybody will be much happier."

So it comes down to just playing, right?

"Exactly. There's no need for anyone to call out or pep-talk anyone. That's over with now. If you don't understand the sense of urgency we're at right now, you gave up on the season. It boils down to each man doing the job the best he can and not worry about another man's position, then we'll get better.

"I just want to feel what a win feels like. It's been awhile since we've been into a slump like this, probably since my second or third year in the league. This isn't fun. Winning solves everything. Winning is the cure."

Alan Faneca is the Steelers' left tackle today and might even remain at the position upon the return of Marvel Smith, who is whispered to be ticketed for right tackle. Faneca, a guard since his high-school days, hasn't found the move too difficult.

"I'll tell you what, tackles have it easy, assignment-wise," he said. "You can kind of go in there and pretty much know what you've got besides trying to help guys out and help the whole scheme of pointing out and seeing things. In the grand scheme of things, I've got the defensive end.

"It doesn't bother me. I can see where that's easier, playing tackle, not having to be on the inside and knowing where the mike linebacker is and making calls and getting everybody coordinated and in all that sense it's easier."

So, the big money tackles traditionally have made, in comparison to guards, isn't necessarily warranted?

"I have thought about that," Faneca said. "There is something screwed up there about that because there's no more or less, I don't think."

The last playoff game for the Detroit Lions was in 1999 and the right side of their line consisted of Jeff Hartings at guard and Barrett Brooks at tackle. Hartings, of course, has been the Steelers' center the last three seasons. Brooks was acquired nearly two weeks ago after Mathias Nkwenti was put on injured reserve with a lower back injury.

Hartings was asked how Brooks can help the Steelers.

"He's a great guy," Hartings said. "Hopefully he doesn't have to play and we can get everybody healthy again."

Brooks was replaced in the Detroit starting lineup for all but four games in 2000 by first-round draft pick Aaron Gibson. Brooks has been signed by five teams since, three times by the Green Bay Packers.

"It's nice to know you have some reliable veteran backups," Hartings said. "That's what we need coming down the stretch right now."

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren on rookie safety Ken Hamlin: "The only thing is that I've had to tone him down. In my opinion I thought he was a little chippy. He liked to talk too much out there and that goes against some of the things I believe in. I have had a talk to him about that and he has adjusted. I appreciate that."

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