Late For Work 3/1: Wanted: New No. 1 Villain – Hines Released

Hightower a better fit than Burfict. Rice to get tagged tomorrow. Pull offer off table?

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Thursday, March 1st, 2012 at 9:14 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Wanted: New No. 1 Villain – Hines Released

Ravens fans no longer have to endure the infamous ear-to-ear smile beaming from inside that black and gold helmet.

The Pittsburgh Steelers announced the release of receiver Hines Ward.

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“We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year,” Steelers president Art Rooney II told the team’s website. “Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998, and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve.

“He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines’ accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best.”

With the accession of younger receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, the cap-strapped Steelers opted not to pay their No. 4 receiver the $4 million he was due in 2012.

Even though the Super Bowl XL MVP repeatedly said he would take a pay cut to remain in Pittsburgh, team officials never approached him to discuss the offer, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Ward will pursue a continuation of his NFL career elsewhere.

“This isn’t how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago,” Ward said in a statement released by his manager. “I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season.”

Nobody could get under Ravens fans’ skin quite like Ward.

He was named the NFL’s dirtiest player in a Sports Illustrated poll, voted on by his NFL peers, before the 2009 season. Ravens safety Ed Reed fell victim to Ward’s blindside blocks, and in December 2010 he said that Ward “cheap-shotted” him during a game.

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“I love Hines as a player, and I told him that,” Reed said last summer. “But I told him also for a long time, ‘You’re a dirty player, because I know how you play.’”

Ward had his success versus the Ravens, catching 108 passes in 27 games for 1,320 yards and six touchdowns.

Ward also took his licks from the Ravens.

In the 2011 season-opener, linebacker Jarret Johnson laid out Ward, putting him flat on his back with his feet pointing to the sky (in the video to the right, the play made was ranked No. 1 in the Ravens’ top hits of the season).

“When I hit him, I didn’t expect him to do a freakin’ flip,” Johnson said.

“The thing about him – guys like him that are kind of dirty guys, guys that’ll take shots – they usually get theirs. “Hines never really gets his. He never gets popped for some reason, and part of it is he’s a smart player. He knows when to take his shots and when not to. He knows when to mix it up and when to stay out.

The Ravens-Steelers rivalry won’t be the same without Ward, but I’m sure fans will get over it.

In the meantime, they will have to find a new villain to take the most-hated Steeler crown. 

Who could be in the running, and why?

Hightower A Better Fit Than Burfict

Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict was once widely considered to be a sound first-round draft choice for the Ravens That is, until his stock began to plummet after he “absolutely bombed” his audition at the NFL Scouting Combine.

“His interviews with teams – the Ravens were one of them – were widely panned,” wrote The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec. “In his talk with reporters, he threw his college coaches under the bus, admitted that he punched a teammate and blamed the media for painting an inaccurate portrayal of him. Oh yeah, he also called himself the best linebacker in the draft.”

He also failed to impress in his on-field workouts, recording a slower 40-yard dash time than some offensive linemen.

“Who knows how far Burfict will drop in the draft, but I don’t expect the Ravens to be the team to jump in and stop his fall,” wrote Zrebiec.

Instead Zrebiec believes Alabama’s inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower would be a better selection at No. 29 if he hasn’t already been taken off the board at that point.

“His skill set, which includes an ability to stop the run and rush the passer from the outside, would be a perfect fit for the Ravens, who did meet with Hightower last week,” he wrote. “The Ravens could use not only another linebacker, but another playmaker on defense. I think Hightower fits that bill and we all know about General Manager Ozzie Newsome’s fondness for Crimson Tide players.”

Report: Rice To Get Tagged Tomorrow

The Ravens are expected to designate running back Ray Rice as their franchise player on Friday, reports the Carroll County Times’ Aaron Wilson.

Baltimore, and all other NFL teams, have until Monday to assign the tag, but’s Mike Florio believes that many players will get tagged Friday for a variety of reasons.

“The thinking is that the Ravens won’t want to deal with the matter over the weekend, and that they don’t want to wait until the final day, in order to avoid any type of a last-minute screw-up,” he wrote.

“Another benefit could come from relative lack of media coverage that comes from things that happen on a Friday afternoon.  To the extent that Rice would react negatively to being restricted by the one-year contract, the controversy would generate less overall publicity, since the situation will melt into the weekend and emerge with a much duller edge come Monday.”

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