Tuesday, Hines Ward retired from football. Notice how I said that he didn’t retire a Steeler – because technically he didn’t. Ward was already released from the team. So in actuality, he retired as only having worn a Steelers uniform. And for some, that’s a big deal and worth nitpicking over.
It’s not news to anyone that Ward desperately tried to get the Steelers to not release him by re-working his contract for less money. The Steelers were having none of it and he was released by the team. It was at this time that just about every single member of Steeler Nation begged and pleaded that he just retire – be forever a Steeler and don’t make the same mistake that Franco made. Yet, Ward decided to wait and test the waters of free agency. Like he said, he was determined to play football for another season or two. He wanted those years to be with the Steelers, but he seemed willing to close out his career with another team. Free agency opened up, and there was a flurry of moves at the wide receiver position. We saw some big time receivers get traded or signed to new teams. But nowhere in the mix was Hines Ward. Not even a mention. Barely a rumor. Out of the blue, the Steelers announce a press conference involving Ward, and that could only lead to one thing – retirement. And, it did.
But, was Ward’s exit an honorable one or was it contrived with a slight bit of ‘jackassery?’ There are some in my very own circles who are die hards feel this way. Think about it. You have your job, and your company decides they don’t need you anymore. You still want to work because you feel you have much to contribute in your field. You test the waters for a bit to find that there’s really no one out there who wants to pay you for your talents. You then decide to hold a big meeting and let everyone know that you are going to retire as an employee from your old company and say that you could only be loyal to that company and none other. Doesn’t that make you look a bit like a jackass in doing it with this chain of events? Shouldn’t you have just retired as soon as you knew your team… er… your company didn’t want you anymore?
Don’t get me wrong. I love Hines Ward, and have written numerous posts on how invaluable he is to the Steelers and to the position of wide receiver itself. I wanted the Steelers to keep him and was a big voice on this site for it. But, shouldn’t we just call a spade a spade here and not sugar coat the fact that Ward was willing to go to another team and would have, had a team jumped at acquiring him within the first few days of free agency? I don’t want to diss one of my football heroes, but it seems like that presser was a bit contrived and theatrical. He didn’t want to go out with just an uninteresting puff smoke. If he wasn’t going to play football again, then he wanted what happened yesterday. Something I think he deserved. One final goodbye. But ‘sacrificial,’ as some have called it? Really?
I don’t discount his feelings about the game, his teammates, and Steeler Nation. Those are genuine. Those are unshaken. I’m not trying to vilify Ward and that presser. I don’t discount anyone for feeling saddened and upset over his retirement announcement yesterday. But, shouldn’t have Ward seen the writing on the wall and just bow out? Or was it the crickets he heard over the past week that drove him to that decision?
It’s cynical, I know. But I think this is actually something worth debating about one of the greatest Steelers… ever.
NATION, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?