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fordfixer
05-02-2009, 10:38 PM
Ward relieved about contract extension

By Scott Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, May 2, 2009

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 23298.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/multimedia/s_623298.html)


Steelers coach Mike Tomlin recently joked that the contract extension Hines Ward signed would not cover how long the veteran wide receiver intends to keep playing.

But Ward said the five-year deal he and the Steelers agreed to last week should allow him to accomplish something that has long been a goal for him: playing his entire career for one organization.

"I know my legacy here will be a Steeler for life," Ward said Friday between the two mini-camp practices the Steelers held at their South Side facility. "To shore up that I'll always wear a black and gold uniform, for me, I'm relieved."

The contract, which could worth as much as $22 million, also brought the Steelers a measure of relief as it cleared some room under the salary cap.

"Hopefully we can go out and sign other guys and let their careers end here as well," Ward said.

Ward, who turned 33 in March, has broken most of the Steelers' major receiving records. His stature and the fact that he is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery explained why Ward didn't do much more yesterday than offer pointers to younger players.

Ward, who is also coming off a knee injury, said he will gradually work his way back into football shape. The 12th-year veteran reiterated that he will be 100 percent by the start of training camp.

"Coach (Tomlin) told me not even to worry about mini-camp, to help the younger players," Ward said. "I'm the player-coach, I guess. Before we leave here (for the summer) I'll be out there ready to do."

Clark also a spectator

Along with Ward, free safety Ryan Clark and wide receiver Martin Nance won't take part in any of the mini-camp practices.

Tomlin didn't give a reason for why Nance will be held out of today and Sunday's practices. He said Nance will be re-evaluated by the Steelers Monday.

Tomlin said there is a good reason why Clark, who is still recovering from shoulder surgery, will spend the next two days watching and helping the coaches: the eighth-year veteran has a way of finding contact even in non-contract drills.

"Like that about Ryan," Tomlin said, "don't like that in May."

The Steelers are using mini-camp to take a long look at second-year safeties Ryan Mundy, a Woodland Hills graduate, and Roy Lewis.

Each was on the team's practice squad last season.

Veteran cornerback Deshea Townsend is also working at safety.

Steelers sign McDonald, 4 others

Limas Sweed may have more competition as he tries to win the No. 3 job at wide receiver.

The Steelers signed former Detroit Lions wide receiver Shaun McDonald before the start of mini-camp, and the sixth-year veteran took part in both practices yesterday.

McDonald caught 79 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns in 2007 and led the Lions in receiving that season.

His signing came less than a week after the Steelers took Mississippi wide receiver Mike Wallace in the third round of the NFL draft. Sweed, Wallace and McDonald will be among those vying to replace Nate Washington, who signed with the Tennessee Titans.

In addition to McDonald, the Steelers officially signed veteran cornerback Keiwan Ratliff, wide receiver/return specialist Jayson Foster, punter Dirk Johnson and kicker/punter Piotr Czech yesterday.

The Steelers released Jared Retkofsky, who handled snapping duties in their final 12 games last season but hurt his shoulder during an offseason motorcycle accident.

Extra points

Other players the Steelers are easing back into action are punter Daniel Sepulveda and long snapper Greg Warren. Each is coming off a major knee injury that required surgery. ... The Steelers have 89 players on their roster. ... The team is scheduled to practice twice today and once on Sunday. The Steelers' next offseason practice following mini-camp isn't until May 19.

Scott Brown can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.