I'm here. I'm just glad to be back. I'm very passionate about football. Just driving back to the stadium today, seeing all the fans in their black and gold, a lot of chills just went through my body. And for me, this whole holdout situation is for me to show good faith to the organization as far as their policy: They don't negotiate with players who are under contract. The whole holdout is strictly business, and for me it's about getting the opportunity to retire as a Steeler. I keep reading all what you guys write, that it's greed or he wants Marvin Harrison money. I'm here to say it's not about Marvin Harrison money. It's about me wanting to get the opportunity to have the chance to retire as a Steeler. That's all I can really ask for. Yes, I do want my fair market value, but the T.O., the Randy Moss, the Marvin Harrison (numbers), those numbers right there are ridiculous. I wouldn't even try to ask for that. Not to say I'm any less of a player than those guys, but I know how our organization's run, how our offense is. For me it's an opportunity for a player to start his career in one place and end his career in one place. And what other place to do it than to where black and gold. That's all I want is the commitment for the organization to give me the opportunity to retire as a Steeler. I don't think I'd even look right in another uniform. I want to get compensated fairly, which I think me coming here and continuing negotiation, as far as my agent and the Steeler front office, but also to have the opportunity to hey, I'm never going to put on another uniform but the black and gold, and that's all I can ask for.
Q: Are you close to reaching an agreement?
HW: Number wise, that's between my agent and the organization. For me it was a business decision. For the first time in my whole life, it's come down to a business decision. When I was drafted I was happy just to be a Steeler. Then I signed my first extension to remain a Steeler. Now, it's about wanting to retire as a Steeler. I never meant for this to come to a holdout. The organization and my agent and myself, we're the only ones who know what all happened. You can speculate and say your resources say this or some sources say this as far as dollar numbers, but those are all untrue. I don't know where all these numbers are coming from. I haven't even heard any of that.
Q: What made you come back?
HW: I wanted to be here, especially game-time situations. I just want to be here, support the guys. I know they've been very supportive of me. Hey, I want to get this thing resolved. If it takes me coming back to get the negotiations started up again, then so be it. I'm showing I'm willing to move forward on a positive note. Yes, I've held out for two weeks. There's nothing I can do about that. I'm here today and looking for my agent and the Steeler front office to continue to negotiating while I'm in training camp. That's why I'm here.
Q: Aren't you risking injury and then no compensation?
HW: That's what I'm doing. That's the nature of the beast. That is in the back of your mind but at the same time that's a chance I'm willing to take to try to remain a Steeler for life.
Q: Was there a turning point in your mind?
HW: For me, I never wanted it to be a negative situation. It was a cry out: Hey, I want to be here.
Q: What made you change your mind?
HW: Missing football. It sucks being at home. It's the worst thing ever, sitting at home watching all your teammates. They've got the NFL Network now. You can watch practices now. I was like, hell this sucks being at home. I want to be out there battling, preparing for the season, getting better. I think we have a great opportunity to make another run. For the first time in my career, we have stability at the quarterback position. I like to look at my situation as I have a greater upscale now that Ben's going into his second year. He's the future of our organization and I want to be a part of that. Ever since I've been here there's been a different quarterback every two years. So for me, I wanted to commit to this team, retire as a Steeler, and I want to be a part of helping this team get to the next level. That's basically why the holdout came about.
Q: Terrell Owens led every broadcast and you were right after that. Do you feel you were getting linked to him?
HW: A little bit. But you guys know me as a person. After seven years, you know who I am as a person. I have enough problems as it is getting my situation done than to comment on T.O.'s actions. Who am I to speak for another man and what he's trying to do? I just hate to see that I'm getting put into that same category. Our situations are totally different.
Q: Did you feel like you were being lumped in with him?
HW: In a way. But that was people who didn't know me. People who know me know who I am as a person and how my character is as a person. I really didn't get caught up in all of that.
Q: What promises did they make?
HW: No promises. They have a policy, "We don't negoatiate with players not in camp."
Q: Once you're here, you can't go out again.
HW: No. I'm here. That's me showing good faith. I'm here showing that I want to get something resolved. I hope that something comes along that both sides can reach something that is agreeable and fair.
Q: Did you accomplish anything staying out?
HW: I don't know. Do I regret it? No I don't. Hey, I want to be a part of this organization. The whole situation, you can't really get into the personal side of it and the business side of it. This is strictly business. I can't take it personally that my deal hasn't gotten done. This is just business. That's why it was a business decision only for me to hold out. There was no other objective for me.
Q: If this gets to a point where nothing is done, how do you keep from resenting the organization?
HW: That's the question my agent asked me. But for seven years, I think I've layed it all on the line. Me showing up tells them, whatever you think I'm worth, if we can agree on that, then so be it. If they don't think I'm worth it, I can play this year out. This organization has done so much for me and my family and my career. It's up to them. The ball is in their court now. I'm here to show support to my teammates tonight to get ready to go out and practice Wednesday. I've done my part. The ball is back in the front office's court.
Q: Are they talking to your agent this week?
HW: Yeah, I think they're going to talk this week. I would hope so. That's why I'm here. I'm pretty sure they are going to start negotiating again, talking. I'm confident that there will be something we both can agree on for the deal to get done.
Q: Have you talked to head coach (Bill) Cowher during this whole thing?
HW: Yeah. I had a long, long, long conversation with him last night. It was very, for me, I needed to hear that from my head coach – the support. That's all a player can ask for. If the head coach doesn't have confidence in you, then maybe we do need to part our ways. It's been a long time since we've had a conversation like that. For me, I needed that. That's why I'm here showing good faith because I want to retire as a Steeler.
Q: Who called who?
HW: I called him. There was no need for me to wait around. I wanted to hear it from the guy who coaches me every day, who's seen what I can do on the field for seven years now. If he doesn't have confidence in me as a ballplayer, then so be it. I can accept that. Like I said. I hated being out. I hate sitting at home. I hope no player has to do that. For the first time in my life, I had to look at the business side of it. This was the first business decision of my life other than trying to decide which college to go to. Having the coversation with coach Cowher that I had, I needed that as a player. The money situation, I can't really go into numbers. I just play football. That's between Eugene and the organization to come up with something he thinks is fair for me. That's why I'm here, to get better as a football player and try to help this team win a Super Bowl and show this organization that I know they have a rule and I accept their rule and I'm willing to go out on that practice field and get ready, knowing that if I get hurt, I lose everything. I'm willing to do that to try to become a Steeler for life.
Q: Was this something your agent told you to do?
HW: My agent had nothing to do with it. He gives me options. He doesn't tell me what to do. He works for me. How is he going to tell me what to do? He told me, ‘These are your options. This could happen. You go back, you get hurt, you could lose everything. You play this year out, you do well, they can put the franchise tag on you. Or, for whatever reason, if you don't put up a lot of stats, based on your production or someone else's, you could lose out on making big money as a free agent.' I told him that I wanted to retire as a Steeler. I told him to make that happen. That's why I'm here today. I want to retire as a Steeler.
Q: What have you been doing to work out?
HW: I've been working my tail off. I think I've worked harder this year than ever before. I'm 203 pounds, that's the lightest I've been since I came to the NFL. For all of the naysayers. That's what motivates you. Reading and hearing things. Where's Ron (Cook) at? The singles article he wrote about me, I really liked that one. I've got that hanging up in my house. My whole career people have judged me. I can't do this. I can't do this. Yet here I am, with an opportunity to be one of the best receivers in Steelers history.
Q: Was it mainly running, lifting?
HW: Both. Running, catching. I actually got a chance to throw with Kordell (Stewart). He lives in Atlanta. I worked out with Jamal Lewis we worked out at the same gym when he got out of the halfway house. We worked out every day. I liked to tease him a lot. I don't mean to be mean. Jamal's a great guy. Working out with him, you get that competitive edge. You see him working a little harder, you work a little harder. Me being around other players, that's why I'm in good shape.
Q: If you got the franchise tag, that would be worth more than what you're asking. But as far as the years go, what are you asking for?
HW: That's hard to say. I've never been one to get caught up in numbers. Eugene tells me the numbers and what he thinks about the numbers. He knows more about it than I do. I don't know what other guys are making. For me, I want to be compensated based off of production. People don't want to go off of what you've done in the past, but what else are you supposed to look at? People say I'm about to get to 30, I'm going to fall off or something. Some of the best receivers in the game are over 30. For me, I'd like to think I'm starting to hit my prime. It's at the point where you not only know the offense, but we have some stability at the quarterback position as well. I can have even a better repoire with Ben. I know he's going to be here for at least the next couple of years. That's something that I've never had in my career. I've had five different quarterbacks in my career here. For me to get that opportunity to get a guy who's going to be here for a long time, that's a great opportunity.
Q: What about the policy that they won't negotiate once the season starts?
HW: To me, I'm not going to get involved in that. I've got to go concentrate on getting better and helping this ballclub get to the Super Bowl. That's why I hired my agent. That's his job. My main focus is to go out and get my mind on football and try to do what it takes to help this team win ballgames.
Hines Ward transcript
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