Reporting Day quotebook

<b>LATROBE -- </b>Some of the conversations with the key players of reporting day were just too good not to use in transcript form. So we proudly present Hines Ward, Plaxico Burress and Kevin Colbert, with a little Jerome Bettis for good measure.


Q: Was holding out a real consideration?
A: Um, for a little bit. But you know I enjoy the game of football. It's not worth getting into that situation. As for as me sitting out a whole year, there was consideration but for me to miss a whole year of the game that I love so much and am so passionate about, it's not worth it. The organization knows how I feel. Is it fair? Some might say yes; some might say no; life isn't fair. I love playing football and that's basically what it comes down to, so regardless of whatever happens Mr. Rooney said they'd make me their top priority next year. So I just have to go out and continue doing what I've been doing around here, going out making plays and just let my football ability take care of everything else.

Q: Did you think about holding out the whole year?
A: My agent, he sat down and we discussed all the options and it came down to the point of: Is sitting out the best option for me? But those were just options that he ran past me. I thought about it but I love playing football. It's not worth missing. And I love being around my teammates and going out here and competing. Once the passion for the game took over, then holding out and all the other stuff was second.

Q: How much did this organization's history of dealing with holdouts have to do with your decision?
A: I really never thought about it. Like I said, holding out was just an option. There was no consideration of me actually going to do it. Me sitting at home watching all my teammates playing football, I couldn't even imagine it. I'm here. I've been to all the coaching sessions. I've done everything I had to do. The organization knows how I feel about the situation. We came to a resolution and it was great to have Mr. Rooney saying they're going to make me their top priority going into next year and that's all I can ask for.

Q: Are holdouts a slap in the face to teammates?
A: They understand the business part of it. Yes, we love to play football but at the same time there's a business aspect of it, too. But like I said, me sitting out a whole year not playing football, I've never missed a season. And me not being injured and not playing, I think that would've ate at me more than anything. I'm here to do my job. I'm going to be professional about it and continue getting better.

Q: Is being a top priority next year good enough for you?
A: Yeah. That is. There are a lot of factors going into this year, injury-wise. That was my main concern. But everything is taken care of from my part, as far as me and my agent. I did go out and get a nice insurance policy just to make sure. But having the owner's word of making me the top priority, that's all I can ask for. Right now, I'm here, ready to play football, and we're going to move on.

Q: Are you excited about this season and this team?
A: Yeah. I'm looking forward to it. Last year wasn't a productive year. I know a lot of guys wish they could come back and correct some of the things they did last year. We're looking for good things out of this team this year. If we stay healthy we can compete with everybody. I'm here to do my part.

Q: Will you still play recklessly?
A: Well, that was one of my main concerns. My agent laid out a bunch of options and if I play and get hurt I'd get nothing. Mr. Rooney gave me their word they were making me their top priority, so I had to take care of myself in case an injury happens, so I'm secured insurance-wise, but my mind's clear. I'm not going to be angry. I'm here to play football and I'll continue to work my tail off to get better.

Q: Lloyd's of London?
A: Yeah.

Q: How much?
A: I can't say. It's pretty healthy, put it that way.

Q: What is Hines Ward worth? In the millions?
A: Yeah, it's in the millions.

Q: Have you ever had one before?
A: I've always had it, but never this amount before. It's pretty big.

Q: Have you seen or talked to Plax?
A: I talked to him earlier when I was just about to leave. He gave me a call. He's working hard.

Q: With contracts coming up for both of you, will you two be fighting for the ball?
A: Nah, I don't see that. I think I've proven what I can do in the last three years. … As far as me and Plax arguing over the ball or whatnot, there's only one ball and Tommy's going to throw it to whoever he wants to throw it to. It's just our job to, whenever we get the opportunity, seize the moment and make plays. That's what Plax and I can do.

Q: Did your desire for a new contract pique when Tommy received a new contract?
A: Yeah, I mean, your first reaction is wondering why. But getting a chance to sit at home and talk over the options with my agent, I mean holding out is the last resort. I never even thought about holding out. I'm here. I've done everything. I've done all I had to do. It was just an option that my agent laid out.


Q: Can this offense come together?
A: I hope so. We're going to live and die with the offensive line. The guys are going to have to stay healthy and be productive. That's the only way we'll be able to win offensively.

Q: Are there enough snaps for you and Duce and Plax and Hines?
A: Who knows? We'll see. Until it shakes out you don't know. I would assume so. If it's not then the guys making the plays will get the football. I don't think it's going to be a problem.

Q: Could you play fullback?
A: I could. That's always a possibility. Slim, but a possibility.

Q: What do you and Duce give this team?
A: More than anything we give this team depth. So many times you don't have the depth that you need, so that gives us depth. And then it gives us the ability to power and be physical, but also to finesse. It gives us the full range in the running back category.


Q: What are your thoughts about not being at minicamp?
A: My thought on it is I was getting better, working hard in the off-season. I just tried to change my work ethic, was working hard in the off-season and you know expecting big things for myself in the season. It's a big season for us, Coach Cowher, the team. If guys are not here to win and challenge for the Super Bowl, they don't need to be here.

Q: Why did you feel the need not to be here in minicamp?
A: It was some personal issues. It was a personal decision that I made by myself. There were a lot of negative things wrote and said about the decision that I made, which I really didn't pay any mind. If you believe in yourself, have confidence in yourself, you can stand up and pretty much do what you want to do. I felt the decisions I made were for myself and my family and that's what I based the decisions off of.

Q: Was it a matter of wanting to stay close to your family?
A: Yeah. Basically.

Q: Why didn't you talk to Bill for such a long time?
A: I think me and Coach Cowher have a relationship as far as I think we have a respect for one another that we don't have to go through you guys to talk about certain situations. We respect each other to the point we can go to each other face to face behind closed doors and get the situation resolved and not have a war of words through the media and let it get blown out of proportion and let us handle the situation.

Q: You said you'd skipped minicamp because of Mother's Day. Was that the reason for the rest of the time you missed?
A: It was a different reason. I stated what I stated and I said what I said. That was basically my reason for not coming to minicamp. Whether people believe it or not, I'm here at training camp. I'm here on time. It's the first day of training camp and I'm here. It was nothing about no contract. That's going to take care of itself. I'm here to win football games, win a championship. That's my goal for the season.

Q: Do you believe they still want you long-term beyond this year?
A: That's not my decision. All I can do is go out and play hard and prove to myself what type of player I am, regardless of what anybody says and just let them make the decisions. I can't make them re-sign me. I just have to take care of this team, play hard and take care of myself.

Q: Will it affect you this season in any way?
A: I don't think it's going to hurt my season. With the decisions that I made, I don't think it has anything to do with the way I plan on performing coming into this year. I worked really hard in this off-season and I'm expecting big things for myself. As far as me coming into this year thinking negative, that's not going to happen. I have a whole new focus on what I want to accomplish with my team. Other than that, I'm looking for a big year from this team.

Q: Were you close to holding out of training camp?
A: That never crossed my mind. My goal was to get in the best shape that I possibly knew how to, take some different steps coming into the season being that we weren't very successful last year, and I wasn't, so I just went about it a different way. People just took it the wrong way. I made the decision and people took it the wrong way. It never had anything to do with me holding out, trying to get a contract, anything like that. I'm here ready to play.

Q: Can you put into words better why you did it so that people don't take it the wrong way?
A: It really doesn't matter to me how people take it. It really doesn't matter to me how people see it. As long as I know the reasons that I did it and believe in it, that's all that really matters to me. If I was worried about what people said or thought about me, I would've been out of this league after my first year. I don't worry about that. I just try to make the best decisions that I feel comfortable with to help myself and my family and that's what I go off of. I go off of my gut feeling and whatever anybody has to say it doesn't matter.

Q: Does your role have to change in the offense for you to achieve your goals?
A: No. I can't really say that my role has to change. I'm pretty sure the coaches sat down and evaluated the film and looked at it and are coming in with a new game plan. I don't know what it is. I know I'm here; I'm ready to be a part of it and whatever role I have to play to get to the championship, I'm ready to play that role.

Q: Was missing the voluntary workouts was an extension of Mother's Day or was it a different decision entirely?
A: Everybody says voluntary but when you miss it everybody's eyebrows go up. So really I guess voluntary means mandatory now.

Q: So you were exercising your voluntary right to stay away?
A: You couldn't have said it better.

Q: Did Bill indicate to you there'd be some punishment and do you think you'll still be with the first team on Sunday?
A: What can the punishment be? That I won't be in the starting lineup? I don't know what the punishment is. That's probably the only thing I can think of. If I'm not, hey, I'll work myself back up to be the starter. I've been starting in this offense three and a half years now. I don't see why I wouldn't be starting going into my fifth year.

Q: Were you fined?
A: Yeah, I was fined. It didn't matter.

Q: Did you know your headlight's out on your truck?
A: I have to get that thing fixed, man. People took them out and put some new ones in. I think they did a pretty bad job. I think I'll give them a call.

Q: Is this the best shape you've ever been in coming into camp?
A: I would say so. I did a lot of different things this summer that I've never done. Those things can only enhance my game and take it to another level. Everybody says that talent isn't enough so I took it upon myself to - you know, everybody says you get out of it what you put into it so I'm eager to see what I'm going to get out of it. I think the way I perform and the shape that I'm in I think it'll speak for itself.

Q: What did you do?
A: Just working on things I'd never done. Some of the things you think you're strongest in are usually your weakest thing. Just working on different things to get faster and get stronger, sitting there watching film, gaining more knowledge of the game, breaking down your own film and being your own biggest critic and just being your own biggest critic and just trying to improve yourself all the way around.

Q: Is your agent talking to the team?
A: I don't have an agent right now.

Q: Did you fire him?
A: Yeah.

Q: Why?
A: Hey, personal reasons.

Q: Are you talking to the team?
A: I haven't said anything. I'm just here ready to play football.


OK, everybody is accounted for except for two players. Brandon Calton, a free agent defensive lineman out of East Tennessee State, called Coach Mitchell this morning and he has some family issues going on. We're not sure at this point if he's going to continue with us or not. I left him a message and Doug Whaley is trying to contact his agent to see what his status is beyond his conversation with Coach Mitchell. Obviously, the other player who's not here -- is not under contract -- is Ben Roethlisberger. Those negotiations are ongoing. Omar Kahn is talking to Leigh Steinberg and his people and we'll see where it leads. Any questions?

Q: Will it be easier to sign him since the players drafted ahead and behind him are already signed?
A: Yeah. The slotting process with the rookies takes care of itself. With 10 signed and 12 signed he's kind of boxed into a situation. Again, we're trying to be as fair as we can and they're trying to be as fair as they can for their client and we'll come to an agreement.

Q: Are negotiations different for a quarterback?
A: In our opinion, no.

Q: Is it still their opinion that it is?
A: Well, I'm sure they're going to make that contention that it is, but the player who was taken first happened to be a quarterback and that player usually gets a lot of money no matter the position, but it won't make a difference in our situation.

Q: Has history shown that to be true for say the top 11 guys? That a quarterback does make more than his slot would command?
A: Off the top of my head, I don't think so. Again, I think it's more on the draft position. The player taken first a lot of times, especially in recent history, has been a quarterback and that player's always compensated the most and it always falls in order.

Q: Because you already have a quarterback, can you take a harder line negotiating with Ben?
A: No. I think it's important for every player to be here for every practice and get every rep, and Ben's no different just because of the depth we have at that position. It's just a matter of being fair within the slotting process. We feel good where we are. I'm sure they'll continue to talk and this thing will get resolved.

Q: How long will it take?
A: They're talking. I can't put a timetable on it. I'm sure the player's anxious, just as we are for him to be here. We'll see how it plays out. I know Omar's had conversations today and I'm sure he's going to have conversations tonight and tomorrow morning. We all want to get it done as soon as possible.

Q: Where's Ben?
A: I don't know. I really don't know. Usually the player has a tendency to be unavailable at this point, which is fine. We don't need the player; we need to talk to the agent.

Q: Are you still interested in Adrian Ross?
A: We had Adrian Ross in for a physical toward the end of last week and he's exploring his options right now, so we'll continue to talk to him. With our linebacking situation, with Clark injuring his fingers right before camp, left us a little thin right there. We did bring in James Harrison, who was with us last year and actually made our roster in the beginning of the season, so he's familiar with our systems and what he has to do. We'll continue to talk to Adrian but as of right now nothing is imminent.

Q: Did his knee check out OK?
A: Yes.

Q: Were you ever concerned Hines would holdout?
A: Obviously there was some conversation in the off-season in regards to his contract, and let me say this about Hines Ward: If there's ever a definition of what a Pittsburgh Steeler is, it's Hines Ward. As far as a player, a person, the toughness, the character, everything you want in a player is in that guy, and he's a special guy. We are aware of his situation. We've talked about it. We're just happy that Hines is here. He's a huge part of what we do. We never want to sell that short and we never will sell that short with this player. We're happy the situation is what it is.

Q: Did Plax ever explain why he didn't come around this spring?
A: I never had any conversations with him.

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