Ward vows to be ready for Super Bowl
Published 12:14 am Tuesday, January 27, 2009
By By ALAN ROBINSON, AP Sports Writer
TAMPA, Fla. — Hines Ward isn’t cutting or turning yet on an injury that sometimes takes weeks and weeks to heal. He’s not running pass patterns or sprinting with much speed.
Not playing in the Super Bowl? Ward can’t imagine it, and neither can any of his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates.
The one question hanging over the AFC champion Steelers as their practice week begins is whether the wide receiver who owns most of the franchise’s career pass-catching records will play with a sprained right knee.
To Ward, there’s no question at all.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was startled anyone doubted that one of the NFL’s toughest and most physical offensive players — and the Super Bowl MVP three years ago — would play.
Ward has been so committed to his rehabilitation program since getting hurt in the AFC championship game on Jan. 18, he worked out Monday before the Steelers took a morning flight to Tampa.
Ward is listed as questionable for the Sunday night game against Arizona, and coach Mike Tomlin said he won’t practice Wednesday, the same routine Ward followed all season. Ward hopes to take part Thursday in what will be the Steelers’ final, full-scale practice on Thursday.
Before then, he’ll have some additional help with his rehab.
Ward shipped a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to the team hotel — yes, just like the device Michael Jackson once used. Ward believes it stimulates the production of red blood cells and will hasten his recuperation from the same type of injury that sidelined running back Willie Parker for a month this season.
If he plays, Ward will be one of 11 Steelers regulars appearing in their second Super Bowl in four seasons and the franchise’s seventh, only one fewer than the Cowboys’ record eight. The Steelers are trying for their sixth title, more than any other team.
Tomlin, in only his second season, could set a record of his own as the youngest coach — he’s 36 — to win an NFL championship.
With so much big-game experience, it was difficult to tell the rookies from the veterans as the Steelers arrived. Roethlisberger and defensive end Brett Keisel were among those holding video cameras to capture the moment as they stepped off the team plane.
The Steelers beat Seattle 21-10 in Detroit three years ago for the franchise’s first Super Bowl win in 26 years.
Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher a year after that last Super Bowl victory, but his players said the message never changed: This is Pittsburgh. You’re supposed to win, and here’s how.
All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu credits that mind-set to self-imposed discipline, something the older Steelers players make certain every new teammate accepts.