During training camp, the illustrious magazine and website known as Sports Illustrated polled 296 NFL players, asking them the not so simple question: ‘Who is the dirtiest player in the league?’
The top five winners (losers?) of the poll are as follows:
1. Hines Ward—Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
2a. Joey Porter—Outside linebacker, Miami Dolphins
2b. Albert Haynesworth—Defensive Tackle, Washington Redskins
4. Roy Williams—Safety, Cincinnati Bengals
5. Kevin Mawae—Center, Tennessee Titans
That’s right, the all time leading receiver in Steelers franchise history tops the list formerly perennially topped by former New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison. In fact, he got 11.6 percent of the vote.
Apparently 159 players polled were playing for the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
Ward is accused of being a dirty player due to his crushing blocks, very few of which are dirty. Every player in the league is going to make a stupid choice now and then in the heat of the moment during a crucial game. Do a few bad decisions mixed with playing your heart out classify you as dirty?
I don’t think so either. The sheer fact of the matter is that Hines Ward is generally penalized for everything illegal he does. He’s not a flashy guy, he doesn’t dance after touchdowns, he simply blocks the defenders—a pivotal part of playing wide receiver in the Steelers offense. In fact, it’s ideal in all wide receivers in any offense, at any level. The Steelers just place a higher priority on it than most.
If a receiver like New York’s Braylon Edwards decided to throw a vicious block on a linebacker from the New England Patriots, he wouldn’t get penalized and even if he did he would be praised for being a hard nosed guy and attempting to open up a running lane.
For some reason though, Ward doesn’t get the same treatment, perhaps it’s because he consistently blocks his man?
Now there’s an argument that he ‘blindsides’ defenders. But why should the blocker be penalized when the defender isn’t doing one of the things he’s taught in Pee Wee football? At all levels of the game you, as a defend, are taught to keep your head on a swivel. I’m looking at you, Keith Rivers.
Hines Ward doesn’t play the game dirty, he plays the game hard.
Perhaps he should consider the award an honor, one to place next to his two Super Bowl rings and one Super Bowl MVP. Because if he’s getting all this ‘praise’ from knocking defenders around whilst being a small(ish) wide receiver in a league full of huge defensive linemen and linebackers, then he’s certainly doing something right.
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