December 17, 2009
By Donald Starver
I respect the Baltimore Ravens. I may not like them, but I respect them. I think most Steelers fans feel the same way. Afterall, how can you not respect a team that plays “Steelers football” better than anyone else other than the Steelers?
The Ravens are rough, and tough, and they come ready to beat their opponent into submission (Or a coma. Whichever comes first). They play smash-mouth football, the way it was meant to be played.
Let’s face it Steelers fans. If Ed Reed played for the Steelers, we’d love him. It’s hard for us to admit it, but we would. Can’t you just imagine Ed Reed paired up with Troy Polamalu? Wow! I could root for that tandem any day of the week. Ed Reed, you have my admiration and my respect.
Or what if Ray Lewis replaced Larry Foote as a Steelers linebacker? Would you root for him? Yeah, I thought so. In fact, I think there would be a massive number of black and gold #52 jerseys filling the stands of Heinz Field each week. It may be hard for you to verbalize as much, but in your heart, you know it’s true.
Same with Terrell Suggs. Or Samari Rolle. Or Le’Ron McClain. We’re genetically programmed to root against them, but if they played for the Steelers, we’d all embrace them. They got game. We hate them anyway, but we acknowledge their talent.
But one thing that I don’t respect about the Baltimore Ravens and their fans is the way the react towards Hines Ward. Hines Ward is persona non grata in Baltimore. He’s public enemy #1 to both the Ravens and their fans. They hate him. Moreover, they think he’s a dirty player. Personally, I think they’re just whining, and I just can’t respect that.
Hines Ward is quite possibly the toughest player, pound-for-pound, in the NFL. How many other offensive players make safeties and linebackers quake in fear when they’re on the field. Though they may not admit it publicly, defensive players try to ALWAYS stay aware of where Hines Ward is. They fail to do so at their own peril.
But while Hines Ward is tough, he’s NOT dirty. Hines Ward has knocked a few defenders unconscious, and he’s broken some jaws, but he has seldom been called for a penalty while doing it. In fact, the times that the league has chosen to fine Ward were on plays that were rather innocuous. But the plays that keep him in the minds of defenders seldom draw penalty flags or fines.
The problem with Hines Ward is that he works too hard, and his opponents don’t like that. Hines Ward plays until the referee blows the whistle. That’s what every high school and college coach tells their players to do, but few actually do it. Even when the ball is not coming to Hines Ward, he stays involved in the play. Unlike supposed superstars like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens who jog their routes and act uninterested when the ball is not coming to them, Ward gives 100% on every play. With no exceptions.
When the ball is going to another receiver, or when the Steelers call a running play, Hines Ward stays engaged in the game. He is more than happy to be a surrogate fullback for Willie Parker. Santonio Holmes knows that Hines Ward is going to be in front of him clearing a path to the endzone. That’s what Hines Ward does. How can anyone not respect that? Particularly the Ravens.
Do you think that Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain would appreciate it if their wide receivers blocked for them the way Hines Ward does for his running backs? Yeah, so do I. Think Derrick Mason would like having Hines Ward as his wingman? Me too.
Given that, how can the Ravens dislike Hines Ward? The Ravens are supposed to be tough. And they should respect toughness. So who is tougher than Hines Ward?
Unlike Calvin Johnson, Hines Ward is not 6’5″. Unlike Steve Smith, Hines Ward doesn’t run the 40 in 2.7 seconds. Unlike Larry Fitzgerald, Hines Ward doesn’t have a 79 inch vertical leap. Unlike Terrell Owens, Hines Ward doesn’t have the physique of a greek god. Quite the opposite in fact. Hines Ward is relatively slow. He doesn’t jump particularly well. He’s listed as being 6’0″, but that’s only true if he’s wearing 2 inch heels. Yet Hines Ward is a multi-time Pro Bowl wide receiver. How can anyone not respect that?
But perhaps the most impressive thing about Hines Ward is that he has managed to become one of the most feared blockers in the NFL. He’s short, slow, and weighs 205 pounds soaking wet. Yet 250 pound linebackers fear becoming a part of Hines Ward’s highlight reel. Just ask Bart Scott.
On the play shown below, Bart Scott had a clean shot at Ben Roethlisberger, and he was about to knock Ben’s block off until Hines Ward came in and made Scott duck for his life. Roethlisberger slid safely, and took no damage. Thanks Hines.
Bart Scott was very upset after that play. Why? Was what Hines Ward almost did to him any worse than what he planned to do to Ben Roethlisberger?
The Ravens also hate Hines Ward because he once rung Ed Reed’s bell. Here’s the play below:
As you can see, the play was coming to that side of the field. After taking out Reed, Ward looks to make another block to free up his teammate. That’s solid football, not dirty play.
The controversial play this year was when Ward broke Cincinnati Bengals’ linebacker Keith Rivers’ jaw. As you’ll see below, Ward put a clean block on Rivers. Moreover, if not for Ward, Rivers would have tackled the steelers’ player. Ward probably allowed the Steelers to get an extra 5 yards on this play.
Hines Ward is a hard-nosed player who doesn’t stop until the ref blows the whistle. How can the Ravens not respect that? Did the Steelers, or their fans, complain when Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs used Ben Roethlisberger like a crash test dummy? Did the Steelers, or their fans, complain when Ray Lewis broke our star rookie’s shoulder and ended his season? No. On both occasions, the Steelers and their fans acknowledged that they were clean plays. We respected the fact that Roethlisberger and Mendenhall were on the receiving end of good, physical football plays. We never whined.
But that is exactly what the Ravens do each time Hines Ward’s name comes up. They whine. And I’m sick of it. The Ravens should like Hines Ward’s game (even if they don’t like him personally), and they should definitely respect him. To do anything else is hypocritical.
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