Feeling like a rookie again
Saturday, April 21, 2007
By Teresa Varley
Hines Ward is entering his 10th season in the NFL, but after a few practices during the Steelers mini-camp, he admits he feels like a rookie all over again. And the reason is simple. Things have changed.
New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has shaken up the offensive playbook, keeping the basic plays the same but changing terminology, protections and other aspects of it. And that means it's time to start over and go through a major learning process for Ward and the rest of the offense.
"That's why lot of the offensive guys are back. It's really the same playbook but we're changing it up and we're protecting different ways and stuff," said Ward. "That's just like going to school, it's more like classroom, homework stuff. It's trying to mentally get a picture of what formation we're in and things like that.
'It's exciting. Everybody is like a rookie all over and everybody's in this together."
The team is taking part in a three-day mini-camp, the first of two that they will have this off-season, and it has been the first opportunity for the players to get a feel for what head coach Mike Tomlin is like on the field. There are things they will have to become accustomed to, but Ward likes what he has seen so far.
"Coach Tomlin, he's a laid-back guy but he's very hands on," said Ward. "He's hands on with every different position. It's exciting for us. There's a lot of uncertainty because we're so accustomed to one way but at the same time we're excited by the new coaching staff and the new sense of spirit they bring into the locker room.
"With the new coaching staff, a new head coach, things are going to be different around here. There's going to be an adjustment period that we as a group, a lot of veteran guys, we're accustomed to doing it one way all the time. Coach Tomlin is about taking fundamentals very seriously and starting from there."
Ward is happy to be back on the field, happy to be starting a new season after he said it was embarrassing to miss the playoffs coming off winning the Super Bowl. Along with his teammates he had time to reflect on the 2006 season and figure out what went wrong and what can be corrected in his own play to help the team do better this year.
It's way to soon for him to predict what will happen in 2007, but he thinks the team is headed in the right direction.
"It's mini-camp, we still have a long ways to go, but I like where we're going," said Ward. "I like what Coach Arians is putting in offensively – it's going to give a chance for a lot of guys to really be active. He's going to put guys in the right position to make plays. That's the good part of this offense, he's going to put you in position to go out and make plays and be successful.
"We know we have a long ways to go, but it all starts here. Right now, it's about starting a foundation, getting everybody acclimated to the new offense's terminology and still going out there and playing Pittsburgh Steelers football."