Insecurities of Hines Ward

Hines Ward's recent comments about receiving the same kind of consideration from the Pittsburgh Steelers that QB Tommy Maddox now enjoys has fueled a mini-soap opera among fans and media starved for an off-season story. Really, Ward's complaints have little to do with Tommy Maddox. They have much more to do with the conspicuously absent Plaxico Burress.

In a recent interview with, Hines Ward talked about what assets he brings to the Pittsburgh Steelers, "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."

Ward's last comment is key to understanding his latest public rancor. Ward wants to believe that all his hard work will result in him getting his due. The reality is actually quite different, particularly if you are a first-round draft pick like WR Plaxico Burress.

Strangely, few fans and sportswriters have connected the dots and talked about the bigger picture. Burress skipping mini-camp and the coaching sessions bothers Ward and he said so, "If that's his excuse, Mother's Day, if that's what he said, then we have to abide by it. But what's his reasoning now? I don't know. I can't answer your question. I thought he would be here. Obviously he's not, and it's sad. I don't think it had to come to this situation anyway."

Ward played up Burress' absence and might have been the most critical of it. "I was expecting to see him here today. He's not here. I'm still shocked," said Ward. Just like always, Ward was working while all the other players seemed to be the center of attention and bellyaching to get what they thought they deserved, "I can't sit there and be distracted by something he's doing or whatever. It's just sad to see. Right now, we're trying to set a foundation. I don't know what his reasons are but as a team we have to keep moving on."

When the Steelers front office made "special considerations" for QB Tommy Maddox, Ward took exception, making a telling comment about Burress' situation, "I'm not on their priority list right now. They're trying to take care of Kendrell and James and Plaxico. Sometimes you sit there and you wonder. That's what I'm doing, I'm just wondering."

If the Steelers are indeed taking care of Plaxico, Ward is having trouble understanding it, "I'm out here practicing, I'm doing my job, I'm out here every day working. That's all I can do."

Ward continues to stress that's he's out there working, he's out there leading, waiting for good things to happen to him.

"We're out there busting our tails, working hard," said Ward during his interview with

Ward's recent comments did not come out of left field. Most fans and sportswriters immediately remembered similar complaints after the Steelers drafted Troy Edwards and Burress in the first round in order to shore up the receiver position.

Ward felt under-appreciated during the summer camp before the 2000 season, "It's a business. I saw it coming, that's why I'm not really mad. I could have had 90 catches last year and still, whatever I did last year probably would have gotten overlooked because now we have two first-rounders. Those are the guys who the pressure's on because of the passing game.

"That doesn't bother me. I've learned this game a lot. When I play the game, it's fine, but it's a business. With the addition of Plaxico, you know it's a business, so you have to look at it from that aspect. So, I can't get mad. If I were in their shoes, I would do the same thing. You're paying them all that money, you're not paying them to sit on the bench."

Ward had a difficult time hiding his frustration, "One thing Coach Cowher talks about, he understands that in this business, you have to know your role. In my rookie year, I wanted to get in there a lot, but my role was to play special teams. And this year, I don't really know what my role is, to tell you the truth. I'm in some, I rotate with Troy. But then when we go to three-wides, I'm not in there. Bobby plays a different position, and Troy's at my position. I don't know what my role is this year. I'm just trying to find my way and try to become the best player I can be."

Eventually, Ward would bubble over and he let his true feelings be known, "If Plax and Troy were leading the team, they'd be all over the front page, they'd be superstars. But with me leading the team, it's like let's talk about what Plax and Troy haven't done and not talk about what Bobby and me have done. Bobby had a great year, but that was overshadowed by Troy and Plax."

Ward would re-gain his starting role, but that was not the end of it. Going in to the 2002-season, the same story was rehashed, "Nobody ever talked to me, nobody ever told me why I got demoted.

"All the pressure was on me, every mistake I made got scrutinized because I wasn't a first-round pick," said Ward. I scored seven touchdowns as a first-year starter and had 61 catches. That was pretty good to me. It seemed like it just got pushed on my side. I don't know what I did. It was frustrating because Coach Cowher didn't come up to me and talk to me that 'we feel like you're not getting the job done.'"

At this point, Ward was bucking for the attention he thought he had earned. Again, he thought his time had come. Again, he took issue with first-round prima donnas, "Hell, I'd try to tell Troy and Plax what to do, but they're first-rounders. It was like, 'who are you to tell me what to do?' It got to a point where I said, ‘Screw it. I'm not helping nobody. Those two first-rounders, if they think they know everything, they can do it.' That was kind of selfish, because I was worrying about me getting better as a receiver."

Fast forward to the summer of 2004. Ward is still obsessed with toiling away in the shadow of Plaxico Burress. While he's busting his tail at practice, Burress is nowhere to be found. If Ward's past comments are any indication, a new contract for Burress may be more than he can bear.

Ward can work as hard as he wants, but he'll never be a first-rounder like Burress. Hines, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Perhaps the front office should compensate you better. Perhaps the rest of the world notices Burress more than you. But understand that all you do and all you have done are not lost on the fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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