'Clarity' sought on NFL fine for Hines Ward

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Dan Rooney already made his sentiments known to the league about one fine on Hines Ward, and now coach Mike Tomlin will add his comments when he calls the league this week.

Tomlin said he would like to have the league clarify why it rang up another fine on Ward for "unnecessary roughness," his second in two games without drawing a penalty on the field.

"I join him in being bewildered on the second one," Tomlin said yesterday.

In the meantime, yet a fourth Steelers player was fined for what occurred in Jacksonville. Wide receiver Nate Washington will contribute $7,500 for taunting. At least his taunting was penalized during the game.

Thus, the Steelers contributed a total of $45,000 in fines to NFL charities from their Oct. 5 visit to Jacksonville.

The others were $7,500 against safety Ryan Clark for unnecessary roughness in what was described as a late hit and $20,000 against linebacker James Harrison for comments after the game questioning referee Ron Winter's integrity for calling a roughing-the-passer penalty on him.

Ward also was fined $5,000 for unnecessary roughness in the game against Baltimore.

Ward has questioned the calls, and Rooney wrote a letter to the league last week to protest. Tomlin added his opinion at his news conference yesterday, and plans to put in a telephone call to Ray Anderson, the NFL executive vice president for football operations, to explain it.

"That's how this guy has played football for a long time now," Tomlin said. "Neither one of the instances were penalties. Don't get me wrong, I understand what the league is trying to do from a safety standpoint and I am for that. We've got to be competitive, we've got to be professional and put a good product out there for our fans. But, boy, it's starting to cost too much money to come to work for these guys. We've got to get a little clarity in regards to that, and I think that's something we're working on as a league."

A league spokesman said Anderson was unavailable for comment yesterday but clarified Ward's fine thusly:

"Specifically, on a run play, he unnecessarily struck the opponent in the head area, violating Rule 12, Section 2, Article 1(c) of the NFL Official Playing Rules: 'striking, swinging, or clubbing to the head, neck or face with the heel, back, or side of the hand, wrist, forearm, elbow or clasped hands.'

"In the league's letter to Ward, it was noted that he was fined in 2007 for a late hit and additionally in 2008 for a late hit -- and that further offenses will result in an escalation of fines."

On the first play from scrimmage in Jacksonville Oct. 5, Ward slammed into the side of 238-pound linebacker Mike Peterson. That play did draw a penalty -- but it was against Jacksonville defensive end Paul Spicer for shoving Ward after the play.

Asked yesterday what Ward did in the Jacksonville game, Tomlin said, "He played football."

"I intend to make a phone call and get some clarity this week and relay that to him," Tomlin said. "More than anything, we want to be a team, and he wants to be a player who plays the game the way it's supposed to be played, the way our league wants it played. We respect that. But we need a little clarity in that situation."

Might the league be targeting Ward because he's known among the better blocking wide receivers in the game?

"I think he probably plays the position different than a lot of people play the position," Tomlin said. "You could say 'target' but I don't choose to use those words. Make no mistake, he plays the wide-receiver position different than most people play it. He's probably viewed a little differently because of it. He's a physical player. He's a football player first and a wide receiver second.

"But like I said, it's our goal to play within the rules of the game. We believe that we're doing that. He hasn't been penalized. But, by the same token, we want to share the commissioner's vision in terms of player safety, so we need to get a little clarity on those issues."

Tomlin said he's not concerned that Ward might change his style if the fines continue or start bringing penalties on the field.

"I don't think you have to worry about that," Tomlin said.

Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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