The Cincinnati Bengals called Hines Ward's hit on linebacker Keith Rivers that ended the rookie's season with a broken jaw a cheap shot by a dirty player. Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers wideout will be on the field with Rivers for the first time since that incident last October. Here's what Ward had to say about that and some other things Wednesday.
Some of their guys called you dirty after the hit on (Keith) Rivers.
A wide receiver being dirty; I'll take that as a compliment.
Think (Keith Rivers) might be looking for you?
No more than I'm looking for him. It's football. If he's worrying about me, he's not worrying about the other 10 guys or his responsibilities. He's going to do his responsibilities and if I've got the ball, he's going to take a shot on me or whatever. It's no different than if that same play happened again, I'm going to take my shot again. It's football. Just go out and play. I'm not going to worry about him. I'm just going to go out there and try to win this ball game.
Did you ever try to talk to him?
No. I heard that he broke his jaw during the game and I think he went straight to the hospital. I wasn't going to go to the hospital and apologize to him. I told Chad (Ochocinco) that I apologized for breaking his jaw and that, but other than that, I don't know him.
What did you think about the rule change?
It's really just singling me out. Throughout this whole year and in our past two games, I've seen hits like that with other guys and they haven't been called. I think Reggie Wayne peeled back on a guy after Dallas Clark was already in the end zone. He got him a linebacker and they didn't call that. I don't worry about it. I'm not going to change the way I play. It is a rule and they're going to emphasize it. It seems like more referees are looking at me rather than other guys. I have to be careful because they seem to look at me and I get more holding calls or the dirty shots or whatever. I'm not going to change the way I play. Coach (Mike) Tomlin said to just play and I've been playing this way for 12 years and I'm not going to change it.
You said you wouldn't change the way you play, but that hit is now illegal. Would you adjust how you hit him this time?
No. I'll still hit him. I'll just get fined.
So you wouldn't shy away from delivering one of those kind of shots?
It's either that or you end up hurting somebody. You can fine me or I'll end up hurting somebody. I'll take the fine. I'm not going to change. If I were a defensive guy, I'd rather get hit high than low. If I'd have hit Rivers (low), I probably would have blown out his knee and he wouldn't play football again. For them to call me a dirty player, look at it that way. The rule this year was changed saying it's OK to hit someone low. Even though it's OK to do it, I'm not going to do it. To end his career, I would feel worse as a player than hitting him up high. We have shoulder pads and helmets. That's what they're made for. Me going down low and blowing his knee out, that's the sign of a dirty player and I didn't go low on him. It's unfortunate that it happened, but if I get another opportunity, I'm going to take it. I'm not going to go low because to me, that's an unwritten rule or code that you don't do that around the league, especially when they aren't watching. The Brett Favre incident where he hit the guy low, I would never try to do that to somebody.
What about the whole Plaxico (Burrress) incident yesterday?
I had some good years with him and he was well-liked in the locker room. I guess it was just truth finally came to him where he had to go. There was so much speculation about the sentence and how long it would be and you saw him walking into court and the rest of the family walking out and he's still there, it's a learning experience for everybody in the league. There's no one player bigger than the game. There's rules, there's laws and it's just unfortunate. His intentions of carrying a gun into a club were really for protection and mistakenly he shot himself. They wanted to make an example out of somebody and unfortunately it was him. There isn't anybody in this locker room that wants to go to jail. I don't want to see the other side, I don't want to experience the other side. I have no idea what's going through Plax's mind being on the inside. It's unfortunate and I was sad to see that.