A tearful Hines Ward announces his retirement

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A tearful Hines Ward announces his retirement

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Hines Ward believes he can still play football. The longtime Pittsburgh wide receiver known for his high-wattage smile and his bone-crunching blocks just couldn't stomach the thought of doing it in some strange uniform on some strange field with nary a Terrible Towel in sight. "I just wouldn't feel right," Ward said. So rather than play for a 15th season -- and his first outside the Steel City -- a tearful Ward opted to retire on Tuesday and secure a legacy unmatched in the franchise's long history. "I can say I'm a Steeler for life and that's the bottom line, that's all I've really ever wanted," Ward said. Ward holds every significant franchise receiving record, including receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. His 1,000 career catches rank eighth all time and he is one of two players with at least 1,000 receptions and two Super Bowl rings. The decision comes three weeks after the 36-year-old was released by the Steelers in a salary cap maneuver. Ward says he was contacted by several clubs but never had any formal discussions. He insists there are no hard feelings for his release, understanding that football is a business. As if to prove the point, Ward embraced Steelers owner Art Rooney II after stepping away from the podium following the announcement. "Thank you (Mr. Rooney) for giving a small town boy from Forest Park, Ga., a chance," Ward said. The former third-round pick out of Georgia was due to make 4 million next season, an expensive option for a player whose role diminished significantly in 2011 when he finished with 46 receptions, the fewest since his rookie season in 1998. He embraced his role as mentor to Pro Bowlers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown even though he knew they were chewing into his playing time. "I know the wideouts are going to be in great hands," he said. "They're full of talent." And they're part of an offense that didn't exist when Ward made his debut 14 years ago. He spent most of his first three seasons blocking for running back Jerome Bettis, something he did better than any receiver in the league. Over time, the Steelers evolved from the grind-it-out attack that has been the club's identity for decades. Ward's breakout season came in 2001 when he set a franchise record with 94 receptions then obliterated that mark in 2002 when he finished with 112 catches. He made four straight Pro Bowls from 2001-2004 and seemed to get better as he aged. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2006 Super Bowl after catching five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh's 21-10 victory over Seattle, the franchise's first championship in 26 years. The Steelers added a second title in 2009 to give them six, more than any other team in the league. Ward hoped to get the Steelers their seventh Lombardi Trophy but didn't catch a pass in a 29-23 overtime loss to Denver in the wild card round of last year's playoffs. Only one pass came his way, a dart down the sideline by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during Pittsburgh's final drive in regulation. Denver cornerback Champ Bailey swatted the ball to the ground and Ward walked off the field and into the unknown. The former "Dancing With the Stars" champion could have a lucrative postseason career in front of a camera -- he worked the red carpet during the Oscars -- but he maintained after his release he could still contribute. He still does. "I feel like I have a few more good years in me left, Ward said. "I would love nothing more to get back to the Super Bowl." He wasn't willing to do it, however, outside Pittsburgh. "I want to go down as one of the greats to wear the black-and-gold and that's how it should end," Ward said. Ward laughed when asked if he could go into coaching one day, taking a jab at coach Mike Tomlin, who isn't sure how Ward's passion would play in the locker room. One of the most respected players in the league because of his contributions on and off the field, Ward leaves a void that will be difficult to fill. "On behalf of the NFL players, I want congratulate Hines on an extraordinary career," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said. "I know he will continue to be a leader and example to our men." Ward's already started by urging Wallace to do what he can to remain with the Steelers. "I told Mike you may get a chance to go other places but there's not another place like Pittsburgh," Ward said. Certainly not for Ward. His No. 86 jersey has long been one of the team's top sellers, and his blue-collar attitude rang true to a fan base where hard work is a way of life. Ward understands the unique relationship the Steelers have with the city and to tarnish it by making a last-gasp attempt to pad his career stats didn't interest him. "I want my legacy here to say, you know what he was one hell of a football player who gave it his all," Ward said. "I'm truly blessed. I played in three Super Bowls, won two Super Bowls, was Super Bowl MVP ... what more could a player want out of his entire football career?"

Dioner Navarro earns his day off, helps White Sox outlast Twins in 10 innings

Dioner Navarro earns his day off, helps White Sox outlast Twins in 10 innings

MINNEAPOLIS -- Dioner Navarro has big plans for his first day off since July 17.

“Sleep -- a lot,” he said.

The catcher ended a stretch of 13 games in 13 days with a one-out RBI double to send the White Sox to a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins in 10 innings in front of 27,914 at Target Field. Navarro, who has started 12 of 13 games and finished the July 22nd contest, doubled in Avisail Garcia with one out after the outfielder started the 10th inning with his second double in five trips. David Robertson pitched a perfect 10th to convert his 25th save and snap a three-game losing streak for the White Sox, who are 51-53.

“Dio has had a long run too of games in a row,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s nice to see him get after it. He knew he wasn’t going to be in there (Sunday), so I don’t know if that’s motivation or not. He earned it.”

The White Sox had to overcome a number of mistakes to win for the first time since Tuesday. They committed three errors over two plays in the third inning, blew to a two-run lead when Eduardo Escobar hit a three-run homer off Matt Albers in the eighth inning and survived rookie pitcher Michael Ynoa’s bases-loaded jam with two outs in the ninth.

Pitching for the first time since July 17, Ynoa induced a pop out off Brian Dozier’s bat to end the threat. He earned his first major league victory after Cabrera doubled to left off Fernando Abad. The White Sox tied it at 5 in the top of the ninth on Melky Cabrera’s two-out RBI single off Brandon Kintzler. Tim Anderson, who went 3-for-5, scored the tying run after he doubled with one out.

Justin Morneau doubled, homered and drove in two while Cabrera went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Todd Frazier missed a second straight game with flu-like symptoms and Adam Eaton was held out of the starting lineup to rest several bumps and bruises. Eaton entered the game as a defensive replacement in the 10th inning.

“It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it,” Navarro said about Ynoa, although it could easily have been about the entire team. “He did a great job. He made pitches when he needed it. He got out of the inning, and he kept us in the game.”

[MORE: Chris Sale 'got it all squared' away with White Sox teammates]

Same as he has all month, starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez put the White Sox in prime position to win.

Gonzalez finished an outstanding July by limiting Minnesota to two runs (one earned) and six hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He had a 2.50 ERA in six July starts.

With the bullpen still in need of rest, Gonzalez pitched into the seventh inning. Byron Buxton’s RBI groundout made it a 4-2 game. But Gonzalez, who threw 114 pitches, struck out Robbie Grossman with a man on second to end the seventh.

White Sox starting pitchers have a 1.71 ER in the team’s last seven games.

The bullpen hasn’t had as much success.

A day after he took the loss, Dan Jennings, issued a leadoff walk to Joe Mauer in the eighth and recorded an out before he gave way to Albers. Albers walked Dozier before Kurt Suzuki lined out to center.

Escobar ripped the first pitch he saw from Albers, a 93-mph sinker, out to deep right to put the Twins ahead 5-4.

“We have a good squad, things haven’t been going our way but we have to keep grinding,” Gonzalez said. “Some things we can’t control. Our bullpen has been struggling, but it’s part of the game. Alberts made a really good pitch down and sometimes it doesn’t go our way and it’s tough to understand. But that is the way baseball is.”

Adam Eaton: Players at fault if White Sox become sellers at trade deadline

Adam Eaton: Players at fault if White Sox become sellers at trade deadline

MINNEAPOLIS — If the White Sox trade away assets over the next two days, Adam Eaton said the blame is all on the players.

The right fielder, who was held out of Saturday’s game to rest bumps and bruises, said the White Sox have enough talent to be successful in spite of their injuries. Even with an improved roster, the White Sox entered Saturday with 50-53 mark as they’ve been inconsistent all season. While Eaton doesn’t want to see any of his teammates dealt before Monday’s 3 p.m. CST nonwaiver trade deadline, he could understand if they are.

“Oh yeah, and it’s our own fault,” Eaton said. “It’s the players’ fault. We play up to what we’re capable of playing, and it’s not even a discussion. Rick has gotta do what he’s gotta do to put us in the best position to be good now and later. Whatever he has to do, we’ve got to accept it as players because we put ourselves in this position.”

Eaton admitted he wasn’t in a very good mood before Saturday’s contest. He said the team’s losing ways haven’t been enjoyable — “losing sucks, man.” Disappointed with the team’s play since their 23-10 start, Eaton pointed at consistency as the club’s biggest issue. He didn’t cite injuries to a number of key players, including center fielder Austin Jackson and relievers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam.

“(Injuries are) part of the game,” Eaton said. “It’s no excuse on our end. When one guy goes down the next guy’s gotta pick it up, gotta fall in the line and find a way to get it done in some way, shape or form. I don’t think we lean on that at all as a crutch. We’ve got the talent here in to win, and at the end of the day it’s being consistent and finding a way to get it done day in and day out. Anybody can do it for a month. You’ve got to be consistent. You can’t be too high or be too low or the game will find you and show those inconsistencies.”

Sunday on CSN: Fire look to extend home unbeaten streak against Red Bulls

Sunday on CSN: Fire look to extend home unbeaten streak against Red Bulls

The Kennedy Igboananike trade shifted focus a bit towards next year for the Chicago Fire, but on Sunday the focus returns to the field.

The Fire host the New York Red Bulls and the game will be televised live on CSN. Coverage starts at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. The game willl also be simulcast with a Spanish language broadcast on CSN+.

Since going 1-5 to start the season, the Red Bulls (9-9-4, 31 points) have looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and sit second in the standings. The team’s recent run has caught the attention Fire coach Veljko Paunovic.

“We are looking at the next game against one of the best teams in the league, in my opinion,” Paunovic said. “I would say performance wise the best team because in the style they play, it’s fantastic. I think they have very, very good players.”

[SHOP: Get a hold of your own Fire home jersey here]

The Red Bulls are playing better of late, but have not succeeded much on the road. New York is 1-7-3 on the road and 8-2-1 at home.

The Fire (4-10-5, 17 points) remain in last in the conference, but have an eight-match unbeaten streak at Toyota Park.

“It’s important to stay strong at home and it’s important for our fans to see that we can compete against one of the best teams in the league here at our field with all our field,” Paunovic said.

Fire midfielder Razvan Cocis will miss his second straight match due to injury and Joey Calistri was still listed as questionable. With Igboananike gone, forward depth for the Fire is very thin, especially if Calistri is unavailable.

Brandon Vincent’s availability is also in question after playing in the MLS All-Star Game on Thursday. He only logged 33 minutes, but factoring in cross-country travel and just two days rest, Vincent may not play.

The Red Bulls have the same situation with Sacha Kljestan, who played 41 minutes in the All-Star Game. Kljestan leads the league with 12 assists and also has five goals. Bradley Wright-Phillips has also been hot of late. The English forward has 11 goals after not scoring in the first seven matches of the season.

“Sacha Kljestan is playing at an MVP-caliber level and Wright-Phillips has seemed to find the scoring touch again,” Fire defender Eric Gehrig said. “They had a great year last and they’re starting to turn it on now, but we’re at home. We know that if we bring our best game that we can compete with anyone at home. It’s an important three points, especially with our road form we know that we have to snatch these points up and we’re looking forward to it.”

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls

When: 6 p.m. Sunday (coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: Comcast SportsNet (simulcast in Spanish on CSN+)

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.