Everybody is accounted for except for Hines Ward. Obviously we've been in contract discussions with Hines and his representatives for an extension and unfortunately we weren't able to come to an agreement and he has chosen not to be here at this time.
We've had discussions as late as today, and we've had discussions periodically really since February and this is where it is.
Any progress today?
Obviously not. I mean, the player's not here and until you have an agreement I don't think there's significant progress.
Will you fine him?
That's a decision for the coach.
What does the organization think about this?
Well, the organization is disappointed but this is a situation where you understand that Hines Ward is a special player and always has been. He has two very good representatives that we have good relationships with. It's just that sometimes these things, there's going to be a disagreement and unfortunately that's where it is at this point.
Will you talk while he's not here?
It's always been the policy of this organization that there will be no negotiations while a player who is under contract is not in camp.
Will that be adhered to?
The next move is up to them?
Again the policy has always been if a player's under contract, he has to be in camp for any kind of negotiations to go forward.
Is your offer still on the table?
That's up for discussion.
Why wasn't there more movement if he's a priority?
As I said, we've had discussions really since February and sometimes it doesn't move; sometimes there's disagreement. Unfortunately, that's where it is.
Is your offer final or would you up it if he came in?There's always give and take, but again, without the player present, there won't be any exchange.
He's ranked 37th in salary in receivers in the league. Do you have to make up for that or is this all about what's going to happen in the future?
We're aware of what goes on around the league and we're sensitive to what players are getting compensated and we try to be as fair as we can within our own constraints because we not only have to make the best decisions, not only for that player, but for our team as well. These are just things that have to be worked out over time. We're aware of it, and we try to make it as best we can for the player, and hopefully we can get to that point again where the player will be satisfied. We're sensitive to what goes on around the league, but we also have to be sensitive to what's best for our team in the long run.
Just to be clear: He can come in at his current rate of pay, you guys can talk and if there's still no progress he just pulls out again?
Yeah, I mean, I don't want to get to that point until we get to that point. But if a player was in camp we would hopefully continue negotiations, but unfortunately he's not.
Can you blame him for not coming to camp, considering the risk for injury?
We think that anybody who's under contract has an obligation to the team. Again, Hines Ward is a special player; we understand that. We tried to get to something we think is fair and agreeable for both sides, but we're just not there yet.
He said there was only one phone call from each side during the off-season. Was that the case?
No. We've had talks with Eugene (Parker) and Roosevelt (Barnes) throughout the spring; formal negotiations where you're exchanging proposals, probably not, but we've been in contact with those guys consistently, not only about Hines but with Bryant McFadden and Trai Essex. And those guys are very good representatives; they understand this game. And again, we've had discussions. I don't really keep track of what proposal was exchanged on what date, but we've had discussions.
Is the big gap still the up-front money?
I don't want to get into all of the specifics. Obviously it wasn't agreeable so there's still a difference.
The players are behind Hines. What's management's reaction?
That's understandable. You're always going to support your teammate and you hope the guys would support their teammate. That's understandable in this situation, but it's our job to somehow manage this whole thing. Having the best team possible is always going to be our goal.
How do you stop this from becoming a distraction?
I don't know if I would term it a distraction because really I don't think it will be talked about from this point forward until something changes. But in our mind, there's nothing to discuss at this point further than what we've already discussed.
How concerned are you that this will affect the season?
Who knows where it goes from here? It's the first day of training camp. There are a lot of days in between and there's going to be a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Unfortunately this is probably one of the downs that you have to deal with, but there will be other things that occur during the season and we'll manage them as best we can.
Would there ever be an exception made with negotiating with a guy who isn't here?
By saying that, did you get any reaction from his agent?
No. They understand the policy.
Did they understand that before?
I'm pretty sure the understood it before.
So Hines either has to crawl back to camp or he's done for the year?
Again, I don't want to get into all those what-ifs.
But nobody's talking to each other, so it's over, right?
Correct. At this point, no negotiations will occur until the player is in camp.
Was Scott Gragg in for a physical? And if so has any determination been made?
Yeah, we had Scott Gragg in for a physical and that's just a wait-and-see proposition on both sides.
Any changes to the roster?
No. We have 86 players and 7 NFL Europe exemptions, but our total number is 86.
Will you bring someone in to replace Hines?
We have not made that decision yet.
What decision needs to be made?
You could put him on reserve/did not report in order to gain a roster spot.
How tough has this week been for you? Disappointed?
In a perfect world you want everybody here healthy and ready to go. And it's not a perfect world. We have to deal with it as it is. Sure we're all disappointed but that's part of it. You just have to work through the disappointments and hopefully find something better along the way. There will be better days and we'll be fine.
Is it tougher because of Hines's popularity?
Again, Hines Ward has been a special player. He epitomizes what a Pittsburgh Steeler is. That's why we were trying to work to the end so he could sign an extension and end his career here. Hopefully we can continue that, but we have to do it in a certain manner. That's where it is right now, but Hines is special; he's a special teammate. There's nobody in the organization that would say anything differently.
Did you have a reaction to him making public statements?
No. That's not uncommon or anything that would change anybody's opinion of him.