Steelers Notebook: Ward will battle big odds, try to play

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Hines Ward will try to beat the odds and return to play football two weeks after a sprained MCL in his right knee.

"We are going to do everything in our power to make sure that he has the medical attention that he needs," coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday. "In his mind he is playing. So, chances are he is."

Ward's right knee was sprained in the first quarter of the AFC championship against Baltimore. The Steelers will play the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl a week from Sunday. Usually, players do not return so quickly.

Running back Willie Parker had a sprained MCL from the third game of this season. He missed the next four games, a span that also included an open date. Defensive end Brett Keisel missed three games with a sprained MCL.

Ward was the MVP of Super Bowl XL in Detroit and has promised he would not miss this one.

"It is not going to be comfortable between now and game day in terms of making that happen," Tomlin said. "But it's not about comfort, particularly for Hines. I saw him this morning. He was down there aggressively getting after his rehabilitation and putting himself in the position to help the football team.

"We are definitely not going to cut him out. We are going to save a seat on the bus for 86."

Tomlin said yesterday that halfback Mewelde Moore and offensive guard Darnell Stapleton have ankle sprains that may limit them in practice this week but will not keep them out of the Super Bowl. Neither will offensive tackle Max Starks' knee sprain nor special-teamer Patrick Bailey's strained hamstring.

Center Justin Hartwig, who wore a brace on his sprained knee Sunday, came through fine, but Tomlin plans to go easy on him in practice as well this week.

The men in white

The Steelers will wear their white game jerseys as the visiting team in the Super Bowl, and that color has been significant for them over the years.

They wore white in two of their previous six Super Bowls -- their first when they beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX in New Orleans and their most recent, a victory against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL in Detroit.

They usually wear white jerseys on the road because the home team has first choice, but coach Bill Cowher chose white for Super Bowl XL, even though they were the home team for that game. He did so because they had worn white jerseys in their three playoff victories that led to the Super Bowl, all on the road.

The Arizona Cardinals chose first and will wear their red home jerseys in Tampa, Fla.

Disagreement

Tomlin did not agree with the call that overturned Santonio Holmes' touchdown reception against Baltimore. Referee Bill Carollo ruled Holmes did not complete the play before he fumbled when he hit the ground. To complete a play, a receiver must make what is described as a "football move."

"They said it was an incomplete pass," Tomlin said. "They said that he didn't establish a football move and that as he gained possession of the football he was in the process of going to the ground and, when that occurs, he has to maintain possession of the ball through contact with the ground.

"So the side step that he had after he caught the ball was not believed to be a football move."

Forget the Gatorade

Tomlin pulled away when some of his players tried to dump Gatorade on him Sunday.

"I am not a proponent of the Gatorade bath," Tomlin said. "I don't know where [the tradition] came from."

He said it was his first experience with it, "and, hopefully, my last -- not at the expense of losing, though."

Tunnel vision for Tomlin

Tomlin said he has not given much thought to coaching against two other finalists for the job he now has, Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt and his assistant head coach, Russ Grimm.

"As far as I know, Ken got the job in Arizona a full week before I got this one. I don't know the nature of that story. It really is irrelevant. If it's relevant for anyone, it is probably relevant for them.

"Me, I am just glad that I have this opportunity. I am glad that I work with these men. I am glad to have an opportunity to pursue the ultimate prize with them in a couple weeks"

Forget the jewelry, too

Asked when he last wore the Super Bowl XXXVII ring he earned as the secondary coach in Tampa Bay, Tomlin said: "Wow! I don't. I generally take it with me when I go home to Virginia because people want to see it, but I don't.

"For me, those experiences are in my head and my heart. The material possessions are less important to me. The most important thing about it for me is probably being able to give it to my children and letting them decide what they want to do with it.

"But I am not a jewelry guy. It is more about the experience for me than it is the ring."



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