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As always, Ward's words hit hard

By Jeff Darlington
McClatchy Newspapers

LAST UPDATED: 2:02 a.m. HST, Feb 2, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas » Sunken into a couch-like chair in a corner of a hotel lounge yesterday, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was in the middle of a casual discussion about his hard-hitting ways when a nearby TV caught his attention.

Only a few hours earlier, Ward's opinions became the day's hot topic at Super Bowl Media Day, and now his face was being flashed on every screen within sight.

"Let's face it, we knew what we signed up for," Ward said over lunch, all while those TVs were echoing a similar sentiment to a national audience. "Most of us who chose to play this game are a little bit crazy.

"There's other sports we could have played — but we chose a violent one."

It wasn't as if Ward wanted to keep ranting about the NFL's attempts to police player safety. Then again, it wasn't as if he minded, either.

Ward is a captain on the Steelers. Even as an offensive player, his tough ways still make him a spokesman for a team defined by hard hits and a tough-nosed style that has resulted in two Super Bowl rings — and now possibly a third — since 2006.

On Sunday, when Ward's Steelers play against the Green Bay Packers, you can bet you will see more than a few brain-rattling hits issued from both sides. That's the way Pittsburgh plays ball.

And despite the continuous fines levied by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this season to suggest he is concerned about player safety, Ward isn't really convinced the league necessarily cares about their health.

"To say the league really cares? They don't give a (expletive) about concussions," the 13-year veteran told GQ magazine, inspiring multiple questions during Media Day yesterday. "And now they want to add on two extra games? Are you kidding? Come on, let's be real."

Ward's teammate, linebacker James Harrison, was the original spokesman against the league's recent decisions to levy major fines against big hits.

The Steelers have continued to prosper this season without seemingly changing their style in the wake of the early season controversies, and it doesn't sound as if the threat of those fines will impact them going forward, either.

"It's the craziest thing," Ward said. "That's how (Harrison) was taught to play football. He's not out to maliciously hurt somebody. You're out to say, 'I need to play this game hard. I need to tackle hard.'

"He gets a bad rap because of the way he plays the game. All we have to do is just continue playing football the way we know how to play."


Farmers gives L.A. stadium a name

LOS ANGELES » A proposed NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles would be called Farmers Field under a 30-year naming-rights deal between developer AEG and Farmers Insurance Exchange.

The companies announced the agreement yesterday.

Terms of the pact were not released, but a person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press that AEG would get $700 million over 30 years if the firm builds its planned stadium and lures an NFL team there.

AEG reportedly would get $1 billion if it places two NFL teams in the stadium.

Vikings DE Griffen arrested

MINNEAPOLIS » Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen was accused of assaulting a police officer and faced an NFL investigation yesterday after he was arrested during a traffic stop in South Los Angeles.

Los Angeles police said officers used a stun gun to subdue the 6-foot-3, 275-pound Griffen during a struggle after he tried to flee. He was released from jail early yesterday on $50,000 bail, about 9 1/2 hours after he was arrested, according to the Los Angeles County sheriff's jail website.

Griffin, 23, was booked for felony battery, officer Norma Eisenman said, and is due in court on Feb. 25. Shiara Davila-Morales, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney, said her office declined to file a felony charge and passed the case on to the city attorney for review.

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