Transcript: Hines Ward and Art Rooney II

PITTSBURGH -- Hines Ward signed a four-year contract extension with the Steelers and held his press conference Monday. Ward and team president Art Rooney II met with the media and here is the transcript:

ART ROONEY II

Thanks for being with us this afternoon. As you all know we established a priority for this off-season a long time ago and I guess sometimes priorities take a little longer than others to be fulfilled, but we are very excited today to be able to announce that we've concluded an extension of Hines's contract and hopefully that will guarantee that Hines will be a Steeler for the rest of his career, so it's a happy day. We're glad to get this over with. Hines …

HINES WARD

Thank you. For me personally this is what the whole thing was all about, getting an opportunity to be able to retire as a Steeler. This is the first time in my career, in really my whole life, where I had to make a business decision. I was very optimistic everything was going to work its way out before the season started. And last night, just talking it over with my family and my agent, Eugene (Parker), just the overwhelming support that I had in the city of Pittsburgh, around the communities and whatnot, hearing the fans were glad to see me back, I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm just happy to get this opportunity. I want to thank Mr. Rooney personally. I never meant to cause any attention from the holdout to try to show up this organization. It was just strictly business, and that was the hardest thing. I didn't want to make it personal because I want to be here as a Steeler. We got the deal done; I'm excited; my whole family's excited. I called my mom last night and told her the news and she just broke down crying. She told me, ‘Who would ever have thought a kid out of Forest Park (Ga.) would get the opportunity' to make the money with the contract and to be able to stay with the whole organization throughout my career? I look good in black and gold, so I will continue to go out and work hard. With the contract, it's going to make me work even harder; just to go out and prove I'm worth every penny of what they gave me. So for me, just go out and continue being a leader, a great role model throughout the community and represent the Pittsburgh Steelers on and off the field.

Are you relieved?
HW: Yes. Yes. I don't wish this on anybody. It was very hard to go out there on the field with peace of mind, knowing that you were so close. But I can go into the season focused now. Now that the deal got done, we went out and had a great day of practice. We'll take tomorrow off and come back Wednesday with a game plan and get ready to play Tennessee for the home opener. My mind's clear now. I can just go out and play like I've been playing, give 110 percent on the field and go out there and help my teammates.

Did this affect your previous practices?
HW: No, because I only know one way to do it. Yes, going out there, in the back of your mind you're worried about it but the way I play this game, I'm going to play until the wheels fall off. I only know one style and one way to play it, and that's how I have to play. If I didn't play like that, it wasn't fair to my teammates, nor to myself if I didn't go out there and give 110 percent.

Art, is this the last signing before the season starts?
AR: Probably. I mean, I think that's probably the case. Today we wanted to focus on Hines and the fact we got this deal done. The one thing I would like to add is I do want to thank Hines and his agent, Eugene Parker, for conducting this in a business-like way and a professional way. These things can get ugly and can become major distractions to a team, and I think they both conducted in a way that, while these things can be difficult, it was something we got through without having it become the kind of distraction that can really disrupt a team.

Art, how much factor do you think having the deadline had?
AR: I don't know. In my experience, deadlines help you when you're trying to get any kind of contract or negotiations. It gives a point in time for people to shoot for. Once the season starts, we want everybody to focused on the field. We're able to do that now and Hines is able to do that now so I think that's the way we like to do it.

How about you Hines? Was the deadline a factor?
HW: I knew it was going to get done, it was just a matter of when. I wanted to get it done before the season started. That way I can go out there with peace of mind. I don't have to worry about anything. I can just go out and play football the way I've been doing my whole career. For the first time, this presented itself as the business side of football. I didn't have that earlier in my career. I was just glad to be out there. Here for seven years and getting the opportunity to be here another four or five years, that's all I could ask for. For me, I wouldn't want to play anywhere else. Just to get the opporuntity to start here and finish here. It's a dream come true for me.

You keep saying this will take you to retirement, but you'll only be 34 when it's done.
HW: I don't know. We'll worry about that when the time comes. But that's all I wanted was to get the opportunity. Who knows five years from now what will happen. The deal got done. I can go into the season focused and not worried about contracts and just helping this team try to win games and the Super Bowl. We fell one game short, a lot of guys are focused. We're hungry. Things didn't go the way we particularly wanted in the preseason, but you don't gameplan for anybody. Our whole focus is Tennessee. We came in today and had a great practice. We'll take a day off and come back and get the game plan on Wednesday.

You talked about the overwhelming support. These days, fans seem to have a hard time relating to the kind of money you make. But fans seemed to say, ‘Just pay Hines what he wants.'
HW: That meant a great deal to me. I was a little worried with the holdout of people questioning my character and being put in the category of a (Terrell Owens) and stuff like that. I was a little worried about that. Everywhere I went, even at the airport, I went to pick up my wife and son yesterday and I went to the great steak place and the lady said, ‘I can't give you a million dollars, but I can give you a steak sandwich for free.' I got a kick out of that. The overwhelming support of everybody in the Pittsburgh area, that's why I play this game. I think the fans appreciate the way I play the game and now that the contract is done, I don't expect anything less. I'm going to continue being the same player I am and helping the other guys and this team get back to the Super Bowl. That's really what it's all about.

Was there ever a point when you came back when you thought it might not get done?
HW: No. The whole thing was the team policy was that they wouldn't negotiate with players not in camp, that's why I came back to camp. I wanted to get something done. I didn't want this to carry on and become a distraction not only to the organization, but to my teammates. When I got back, I apologized to my teammates and the organization. I never meant this to be a distraction to anybody. It's just this is the first time in my career that I had to make a business decision. I was put in that position and I had to do what I had to as a business decision. I worked extra and tried to catch up with the other guys. Over this weekend, my agent Eugene Parker worked hard with the Steelers organization to get the deal done and it came to a conclusion late last night. Here I am and now hopefully I can help the team get back to the Super Bowl.

Was this a question of you guys coming to the middle?
HW: No. I think they went out of their way. It was far more than what I expected. For me, it was both sides going out and negotiating and going back and forth and me trying to stay out of it. I think I've done my production on the field. I tried to stay out of the logistics part of it. And for me Eugene and Mr. Rooney and the team came to a deal late last night and here I am today.


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