Notebook: Ward wants to get off pot

PITTSBURGH – On the night he ended his holdout, Hines Ward smiled.

He may not have smiled since.

Upon his return to the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice facility on the South Side yesterday, Ward wore a t-shirt that expressed his unhappiness. It read: Can't sell dope forever.

Ugh.

He was asked if it's a commentary on the slow-moving contract negotiations.

"It is what it is," he said.

Ward is unhappy his agent, Eugene Parker, and the Steelers haven't reached an agreement on a contract extension.

Parker and another client, Cedric Benson, finished a lengthy holdout with the Chicago Bears over the weekend, and Parker was in Chicago yesterday for the pomp and circumstance.

The Steelers' lead negotiator, though, was busy in New Orleans. Omar Khan spent the weekend helping his parents batten down the hatches in preparation for Hurricane Katrina. He was back in Pittsburgh yesterday.

"There's been a lot going on," Ward said "I hope it gets done. I'm just hoping right now. We're still negotiating."

Ward caught 2 passes for 16 yards Friday night before coach Bill Cowher yanked him after two series. He's played in only four series in two games.

"He doesn't want me to risk anything," Ward said. "That's the frustrating part because I want to play. But at the same time, the contract situation still looms over me. Do I play the whole game and see what happens? I mean, it's still preseason, but it's frustrating not to be out there all the time. I'm a firm believer in getting my timing down. I'm a perfectionist. When I don't feel like I'm at the top of my game I get frustrated."

Cowher normally plays his starters only one series in the fourth pre-season game. Ward would like to play longer.

"I really would," he said. "That was my intention; that's why I came back early. I came back showing good faith and expected to be signed by now. That's the frustrating part because I like to have peace of mind so I can go out there and play football and not worry about getting hurt.

"I only know one way to play and I'm going to play that way, but I think that's why coach Cowher has kept me out."

FIRST CUTS

The Steelers cut 10 players yesterday: FB Matt Cushing, WR Chris Doering, WR Walter Young, WR Zamir Cobb, OT Josh Burr, DB Vontez Duff, C Joe Iorio, OT Morgan Davis, K Shaun Suisham and OG Jake Verstraete.

Cowher said he's kept the names of two players on his speed-dial.

"Matt's always an option," Cowher said of Cushing. "I talked to Matt and I talked to Chris Doering. I just told them to stay in the bullpen for me one more year."

The cuts bring the Steelers' roster down to 75. They must cut down to 65 by 4 p.m. today, but can keep 71 if they keep their players from NFL Europe.

Also missing Tuesday's practice were Andre Frazier (leg contusion), Brett Keisel (sick) and Kimo von Oelhoffen (back). Cowher expects Keisel and von Oelhoffen back today, but said Frazier is day-to-day.

REED NOT WORRIED

Jeff Reed made 17 consecutive field goals to end last season, and is only two away from tying Gary Anderson's team record, but Reed has missed half of his four pre-season kicks. Friday, he missed from 43 yards. He'd missed earlier from 26 yards.

"I'm getting the misses out early," he said, but he wouldn't admit to being in a slump.

"There's no such thing as a slump," Reed said. "You've just got to be consistent. I am where I need to be. I feel good. I'm strong and healthy. You just can't lose focus at any time."

Reed was short on Friday's kickoffs, but said his leg feels strong and that he'd been kicking deep in previous games and at camp. Is he excited about matching the team record?

"I really don't think about it," he said. "It would be great, but it's not the first thing on my mind. The first thing on my mind is helping this team win, anything I can do. Kickoffs count. As for field goals, anytime you get on the field to kick a field goal, whether it's from 50 or 20, you have to make it. That's what I get paid to do.

"The record's cool. I think it'd be great to do that, but honestly it's the last thing on my mind right now."

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