Transcript: Hines Ward

<b>PITTSBURGH -- </b> Hines Ward heard Tommy Maddox had renegotiated his contract, with three years remaining, and asked one question: Why not me? <br><br> The next day, Ward went back to the grind of voluntary spring workouts, and we talked to the franchise's second all-time leading receiver about that issue and whether he's playing for a contender or a pretender.

HINES WARD

What kind of vibe are you feeling with this team?
Pretty good so far. We're out there busting our tails, working hard. Yesterday at the end of practice we got physical a little bit. That's just the type of team we are. We're a fast, physical team. When we're healthy we're good and that's the main thing. We're trying to keep everybody healthy.

Do you sense this team's hungrier at this point than last year?
We were 6-10. Nobody has a good taste in their mouth. Everybody wants to go out and make sure what happened last year doesn't happen this year. Me being myself, you sit there like what much more can I do better? I'm still motivated to go out there and be the best player I can be. The game has slowed so much for me, I'm kind of a player-coach out there. I'm kind of coaching at the same time. Antwaan, he was motioning and asking what route he had. I screamed a route and we ended up going out and getting a completion. I felt like a coach at the same time I'm a player. I'm starting to evolve into my own and the game is starting to really slow down for me. I just have to be consistent. If I keep working hard and being consistent, good things will happen to me.

Will the new emphasis on the run affect you guys out there?
I don't know if it will affect us. When we were good, we were balanced. When we went 13-3, both Plax and I had over 1,000 and I ended up catching 94 balls. But we've got to pick and choose our moments. Yes, we need to resort back to the running game because it takes the pressure off Tommy and us receivers. At the same time, we need to be balanced. All the good teams can run and pass and we have to get back to that.

What's been the reaction since you spoke out about wanting a renegotiated contract?
I don't know. I'm not angry. Those were just questions. Maybe good; maybe bad. But facts are facts. That's really what my agent was looking for - the facts. He said I'm as deserving as anybody else as far as getting a contract, and we both know there are no guarantees in this game. Next year we can talk, but what if I get hurt next year? There are no guarantees. And the way I play the game, each and every Sunday, what I give out on the field as far as blocking linebackers and stuff, that's the concern to my agent. They want to take care of me next year but things do happen.

Will that affect how you play?
Nah, I mean so far it's not a distraction. I'm still going to play (hard) because I don't know any other way to play.

You'll be throwing your body around even if you don't get the raise this year?
Well, I play hurt. The Baltimore game last year, I had broke ribs. I was already voted into the Pro Bowl, we were out of the playoffs, so why play it? My wife was like, 'Why even risk hurting yourself further when you can't even perform in the Pro Bowl?' But that's just my nature to go out there and continue fighting. And that's how I am. When I put on black and gold, I'm going to give it everything I've got, and I think the fans really appreciate that.

So you don't see that changing?
I don't. But if it came down to that situation where it was the last game of the year and we're not playing for anything, of course I'm going to look at my health before anything. Like I said, if it happens it happens; if it don't, it don't. I'm still going to go out and be the same guy and play hard. There were just questions in the air. I mean, why not me?

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