Ward's days with Steelers are nearing the end

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Ward's days with Steelers are nearing the end

From Comcast SportsNet
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Hines Ward has been an icon for the Pittsburgh Steelers for 14 seasons, but no more, as the NFL team announced Wednesday it was releasing the veteran wide receiver. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, who holds franchise records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, Ward, 35, will be released by the organization that drafted him back in 1998. "We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year," Steelers President Art Rooney II said in a statement on the team's website Wednesday. "Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998, and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve." The MVP of the 2006 Super Bowl will finish his Steelers career with 1,000 catches, 12,083 yards and 85 receiving touchdowns. He helped Pittsburgh to three AFC championships and a pair of Super Bowl wins. The former "Dancing With the Stars" champion -- who spent last weekend working the red carpet at the Oscars -- doesn't appear ready to put away his cleats just yet, however. While saying "this isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end," Ward vowed to return for a 15th season next fall. "I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season," Ward said in a statement. Ward has developed a reputation as one of the league's best blocking wide receivers, a trait that endeared him to the blue-collar fan base of one of the league's marquee franchises. Ward was pretty good at catching passes too, particularly in the postseason. He helped the Steelers to their fifth Super Bowl in 2006 catching five passes for 123 receiving yards and a touchdown in a 21-10 win over Seattle. "He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field," Rooney said, "and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years." There was just not appreciation to bring Ward, who turns 36 next week, back at 4 million next season. The Steelers are in the midst of a roster-wide salary purge and a youth movement at receiver. By the end of the 2011 season, Ward found himself on the sidelines for long stretches as youngsters Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown turned into quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's favorite targets. Both receivers topped 1,100 yards receiving and combined for 10 touchdowns, while Ward had just 46 catches for 381 yards and two scores. It was the worst reception total since his rookie year (15). Ward took the demotion in stride and relished the role of elder statesmen. Wallace, Brown and Emmanuel Sanders credited Ward for helping mature both on and off the field. All three players hoped Ward would come back for one more go, but understood they were nearing the end of an era. "We all know the direction in which we're going with the receiving corps," Sanders said last month. "But, like I said, Hines is still a great addition, just the knowledge he brings to the room. You can't pay for that. You can't coach that. He just brings that well being of how to be a pro into the room." Now the corner locker he's held for more than a decade is vacant. "Enjoyed playing with mvp86hinesward learned a lot! Was a great mentor for me! You define a "Steeler"," Brown tweeted after the announcement. He may end his career in a different city, but Ward left little doubt where his heart lies. "I gave my heart and soul for (the fans) every down and I will always bleed black-and-gold," Ward said.

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Mike "Hollywood" Jimenez has come a long way.

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How Tim Anderson's new glasses could benefit him at the plate

How Tim Anderson's new glasses could benefit him at the plate

Though he only has worn them for one game, Tim Anderson had been preparing to break in his new glasses for several weeks.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria said Tuesday evening that Anderson recently purchased new corrective lenses after he asked for additional testing beyond what teams normally offer. Though he’d recently worn the glasses around the clubhouse and in batting practice, Anderson didn’t break them in until Monday night. The second-year shortstop homered for the first time in nearly a month Monday and finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs in the club’s loss to the New York Yankees.

If the glasses help Anderson’s vision at the plate, the White Sox are all for it. Anderson entered Tuesday’s game hitting .253/.278/.377 with seven home runs and 24 RBIs in 285 plate appearances.

“The ball can travel anywhere from Shields' 69 miles per hour curveball to Chapman's 100 miles per hour fastball,” Renteria said. “It's very important to be able to see the baseball. It's obviously a split-second decision. It's very dangerous to be in there and not be able to see the ball. If that helps him, if that's a part of continuing to move forward, I hope that's part of what helps clear him up.”

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Anderson said after Monday’s game he plans to wear the lenses the rest of the season, though he didn’t think the glasses make a huge difference. Still, the fact he homered after going 96 plate appearances in between round-trippers didn’t escape third baseman Todd Frazier, who made a joke suggesting Anderson downplayed the significance. Anderson said he’s spent several days recently adjusting to the glasses in preparation for the game and wears them at bat and in the field.

“I’ve been using them in BP,” Anderson said. “Trying to get used to them.”

Renteria said players get their vision checked every spring. Anderson’s request for additional screening isn’t out of the ordinary, Renteria said.

“Timmy just told us he wanted to get his eyes checked, so he did,” Renteria said. “Obviously, he's wearing the glasses that he wears now. He's trying to get comfortable with them. He'd had them for at least 2 1/2 weeks, 3 weeks. But he's kind of been hesitant to put them on. I know (Todd Steverson) spoke to him. He's going to use them, feel comfortable with them, start using them in the workouts and BP.”