On Tuesday, Hines Ward announced his retirement with an emotional speech during which he pronounced himself a Steeler for life. To many, Ward epitomizes the way the wide receiver position should be played. He did more than just catch 1,000 passes, reel in 85 touchdowns and win two Super Bowls during his 14-year career in Pittsburgh. Ward also played the game with the toughness of a tight end, always looking to throw a block to spring someone else free. There are those who saw it as hard-nosed football, and then there are those like Bengals safety Chris Crocker who have ripped Hines for it.
“He tried to end people’s careers and that’s just not the way the game is supposed to be played,” Crocker said according to Bengals.com.
“Stuff like that, it’s just not right. And I’m not the only guy that thinks it.”
In one breath, Crocker called Ward a dirty and dangerous player. In the next, he praised him for being an all-around receiver and potential Hall of Famer.
“He’s probably the first receiver to make blocking such a big part of his game; he was an all-around receiver,” Crocker explained. “He was a dirty player, but he made a lot of plays. They used him perfectly to suit his abilities and he was a big-time player for them. Some people might think of him as a borderline Hall of Famer, but I think the fact he helped them win two Super Bowls and all the things he did for that team make him deserving.”
I’m not sure if Ward ever set out to end careers, but Crocker is certainly right that he is not the only person who thinks Hines is a dirty player. Ed Reed, who was the recipient of one of the most brutal Ward blocks of all time, also called the Steelers receiver a dirty player last summer. Overall, it would seem that the general consensus is people respect Ward’s toughness but question the way he utilized it.