A tearful Hines Ward announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday, saying that while he considered trying to sign on with another team after he was released by the Steelers, he decided he just couldn’t see himself ever putting on another team’s jersey.
“You guys meant the world to me,” Ward told Steelers fans. “This city and this organization means the world to me. So today I came back to Pittsburgh to grant Steeler Nation this one last request. Today I am officially retiring as a Pittsburgh Steeler. And as much as I will miss football, my teammates, coaches and everything about the game, I don’t want to play in any other uniform. The black and gold runs deep with me, and I will remain a Steeler for life.”
Ward said that after the Steelers told him they were cutting him, his initial reaction was to try to catch on somewhere else. But when he had time to consider what it would mean to play for another team, he decided he couldn’t do it.
“It is my love for the game that makes me want to continue playing,” Ward said. “I feel like I have a few good years left where I can make a difference and help a team. I am a competitor and I would love nothing more than to get back to another Super Bowl. But that’s the passion in me.”
Ward took the podium at the Steelers’ facilities and started by saying, “I’m not going to cry,” but moments later he stopped and wiped away tears for the first of several times.
The 2011 season was a tough one for Ward, who has slowed down in his mid-30s and isn’t the same player he once was. But Ward called the way his career ended the right way — starting as a Steelers rookie, becoming a Steelers star and going out as a Steeler until he couldn’t play anymore.
“There’s been some interest for other teams,” Ward said. “But I just couldn’t picture myself playing in another uniform.”