On the Steelers: New rule won't change Ward

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Hines Ward will not apologize. If he has to block Cincinnati's Keith Rivers again Sunday he will do it the same way that he did last season, even though it's now against NFL rules, even though he broke the young linebacker's jaw.

He said he's not going to take a Brett Favre-like approach and hit a guy low and possibly blow out his knee.

"It's unfortunate it happened but I'm not going to change," Ward said over and over yesterday in front of his locker. "If I get another opportunity to hit somebody, I'm going to take it.

"I'm not going low on anybody. To me, that's, I guess, an unwritten rule, kind of a code that you don't do that around the league, especially when nobody's watching.

"The Brett Favre incident where he hit the guy low? I would never try to do that to anybody."

The NFL fined Favre $10,000 for a low crackback block on Houston Texans safety Eugene Wilson in the preseason. Ward drove his shoulder into the chest/head area of Rivers in an Oct. 19 game at Cincinnati. The block was legal in 2008, but NFL owners voted to make it illegal this year, and it was quickly dubbed the "Hines Ward Rule." The NFL includes his block on Rivers on a video to emphasize new rules to players and coaches.

That, Ward said, will not change his ways.

"No, I'll still hit him, I'll just get fined," Ward said. "It's either that or try to hurt somebody. So you either fine me or you want me to end someone's career. I'd rather take a fine than end someone's career, so I'm not going to change."

Ward's point is that while it may be legal -- except on crackback blocks -- to block low, it's not the right thing to do.

"Me being the defensive guy, I'd rather get hit high than low," Ward said. "Because if I hit Rivers [low] I probably would have blown out his knee, he never would have played football again. So whoever called me a dirty player, you look at it that way."

Even Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer empathized with Ward and the attention he received after the Rivers block last season. Palmer told the media in a conference call yesterday that it was "actually unfortunate for Hines to go through what he went through because he was just playing football."

Ward claimed the refs are watching him closer this year because of it, although he has just one penalty in two games, a holding call against Tennessee on a 5-yard Willie Parker run.

"It's really singling me out," Ward said of the rule named after him. "These past two games, I've seen hits like that all day by other guys but they haven't been called. I think Reggie Wayne peeled back on a guy after Dallas Clark was already in the end zone. He got him a linebacker; they didn't call that."

Rivers had little to say about last year's block or the possibility of facing Ward again Sunday when he talked in Cincinnati yesterday.

"It's over with, it's done with. I've moved on and I'm looking forward to finishing this season off and doing well. It's in the past."

Holmes practices

Santonio Holmes tossed off the temporary cast on his left wrist and went through a full practice yesterday. The NFL's second-leading wide receiver with 214 yards did ice down his wrist after practice but expects no problems with it this week.

"It's just something sore from the game, normal football stuff," said Holmes, whose wrist was injured when he braced himself on the ground in Chicago.

Safety Tyrone Carter (bruised thigh) did not practice but coach Mike Tomlin said he would not until possibly today. All others seemed healthy, including wide receiver Limas Sweed and linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

Sweed missed Sunday's game in Chicago with a foot sprain but practiced yesterday. Timmons returned to play Sunday in a part-time role but seems ready to assume the starting position at inside linebacker.

Carter gets his sack, etc.

• The Steelers' sack total improved by 50 percent yesterday when Elias, which keeps the NFL's official stats, overturned the Chicago Bears' stats crew and gave Carter a sack of quarterback Jay Cutler. The game-day crew ruled Cutler was running, but he had dropped back to pass and scrambled when Carter tackled him for a yard loss. That gives the Steelers three sacks; Aaron Smith and James Farrior have the others.

• Frank Summers became the first rookie to start a game this season when he opened Sunday's game at fullback. He's the only rookie to start a game the past two seasons other than Rashard Mendenhall, who started one game in 2008.

• Ben Roethlisberger will try Sunday to extend his pro record in his native state of Ohio to 12-0. He is 6-0 in Cincinnati, 5-0 in Cleveland.

• The Steelers are one victory short of having the most in the NFL since the 1970 merger of the AFL and NFL. They have 364, one behind the Miami Dolphins.

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


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