By Mike Prisuta
Monday, July 30, 2007
Wide receiver Willie Reid was still in one piece, and the competitive harmony between the Steelers' offense and defense was intact Sunday afternoon at St. Vincent College.
Following recent events, that constituted news entering the second week of the team's first training camp under new coach Mike Tomlin.
The fists, hits and fighting words were flying on Saturday afternoon, when Reid absorbed vicious shots from safeties Ryan Clark and Anthony Smith.
Those shots were delivered after a fight between safety Tyrone Carter and wide receiver Nate Washington.
"Just a good, hard football practice," Clark said.
Wide receiver Hines Ward offered a dissenting opinion, characterizing the actions of the defense as "chicken-(expletive)."
Yesterday, the offensive and defensive units completed a spirited goal-line drill and then rushed one another on the way to their traditional post-practice huddle and pretended to brawl.
A few players were screaming, "Fight, fight, fight."
Just about everyone was smiling, including Ward, who a day earlier had taken his case directly to the defense as well as the media after watching Reid absorb hits Ward considered late, dangerous and excessive, particularly in a non-scrimmage situation.
"Let us know if it's going to be full pads," Ward said. "But if it ain't? On one play Willie was slowing down and somebody hit him."
Clark apologized for that one -- "I know when I'm wrong" -- and appreciated Ward's perspective.
"We know when it comes down to being tough, none of us can out-tough Hines," Clark said. "He's the toughest guy, probably, in the NFL, especially at his position. So when he says something and he comes over defending his squad, you respect it.
"It's not like it's a soft guy saying it. It's Hines Ward. He came over defending his team, and we're going to defend ours, but in the end we're all Pittsburgh Steelers and we walk off the field."
"You know sometimes it gets heated between the two sides. It's all love, but in the end you're gonna ride with your room. Our room is defense, and theirs is offense. It might have gotten out of hand a little bit."
A factor in the hitting might have been the trash-talk Reid engages in with Carter and some of the other safeties.
"We just go at each other, back and forth, locker room stuff," Reid said. "We took it out on the field, but it's nothing personal."
Normally, it isn't.
Saturday, it was.
"I'll tell you the truth. Willie Reid is probably the hardest-working wide receiver we have," Clark said. "He catches the ball and runs to the end zone every time. I think sometimes that brings out the competitiveness in you. You get a guy, no matter how many times we tag him (down), he runs all the way into the end zone and the fans scream.
"I got tired of hearing it."
Ward tired of seeing the defense's response long before Tomlin, who never intervened.
"I know at times tempers are going to flare," Tomlin said. "Part of us building this football team is understanding and controlling our emotions, because they're going to flare in the fall.
"It's also showing your ability to take some blows and catch balls and bounce up. Willie Reid has proven to us that he doesn't have any fear. He's distinguishing himself because of some of the things that have happened. But we have to leave it on the grass. It can't get out of hand.
"It's a fine line, I know. We're attempting to walk it."