Unfulfilling in past, Colts must reach Super Bowl

The next step toward forgetting last season starts Sunday for the Indianapolis Colts.

Players report for training camp at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind., and renew their quest for that elusive Holy Grail, the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

What’s the scoop at running back?
colts-jamesThe loss of Edgerrin James to the Cardinals will be felt, not only in the loss of his rushing yardage, but his pass-protection skills and his positive locker room influence. It’s imperative that rookie Joseph Addai reach a contract deal and get into camp. He has an opportunity to challenge Dominic Rhodes for the starting spot, but that won’t happen if he’s a holdout.

The Colts’ offensive line is strong enough, and the passing game potent enough, to make a Rhodes-Addai partnership work in the backfield. But Addai must get into camp and start learning.

Who’ll replace David Thornton?
Thornton, like Mike Peterson and Marcus Washington before him, was allowed to move on in free agency under the assumption that the Colts will find an able-bodied linebacker to replace him. The top choice is Gilbert Gardner, who has shown promise but has had trouble remaining healthy. Cato June at one outside linebacker spot and Gary Brackett in the middle are solid. Gardner’s health will be a major factor in how strong the Colts’ defense becomes.

Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl OddsWill Brandon Stokley return to form?
Stokley’s production dropped significantly in 2005. After logging 1,077 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 2004, his numbers dropped to 543 yards and one TD last season. Much of the drop was due to the most frequent use of two tight ends in the Colts’ offense, with Dallas Clark in the slot. Stokley’s yards per catch (13.2) were still respectable, and it may turn out that his 2004 numbers were an aberration due to Peyton Manning’s record-setting season.

Stokley remains a quintessential team player and one of the best at running routes in traffic across the middle. His numbers could rise again if the Rhodes-Addai running attack struggles and Manning goes more and more to the air. Stokley might not reach 2004 heights, but expect a rebound to numbers higher than last season as he continues to supplement Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.

Can a kicker provide confidence?
Adam Vinatieri brings his Super Bowl rings and experience from the New England Patriots, replacing Mike Vanderjagt at kicker. There’s little difference between Vinatieri and Vanderjagt statistically, but Vinatieri’s demeanor is much more suited to the workmanlike style of Colts coach Tony Dungy.

Vinatieri is clutch, and Manning will appreciate the security of knowing three points are almost always assured with a decent offensive drive. Plus, Vinatieri won’t say anything controversial to the media.

colts super bowl ringWill Corey Simon become more dominant?
Simon says he has dropped some excess weight from last season, and that can only be a major positive move.

Two factors worked against Simon last season — his weight and his unfamiliarity to the Colts — but he still made a solid contribution.

If he’s in tip-top shape, he could be dominant on the defensive line, making sack experts Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis even more effective. Seeing Simon report in good shape would a beautiful sight on Sunday.

Will there be significant changes in the secondary?
bobby_sanders_coltsSpeculation that Marlin Jackson might be moved to safety did not materialize, but look for Jackson to push for a starting spot at cornerback this season.

His speed and savvy demand to be put to better use. Whether that means less time for Jason David or Nick Harper remains to be seen. Harper, who’ll be 32 this season, isn’t getting any younger, but he’s far from over the hill.

The only indispensable defensive back would be safety Bob Sanders, who improved by leaps and bounds during his first two seasons.

Can the Colts put last year’s fizzling end behind them?
NFL training camp is much like baseball’s spring training. It’s a fresh start. There were departures (James, Thornton, Vanderjagt and Larry Tripplett) and additions (Vinatieri, Addai and other rookies), but the core of the Colts remains the same.

Dungy has had time to recover — as much as that’s possible — from the death of his son and refocus his energy on coaching.

As usual, no matter how much is answered in training camp, this year’s success won’t be determined until the playoffs in January. Super Bowl or bust? No question.


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NFL is the most profitable sports league in the world

NFL, which is also known as the National Football League can be considered as the richest sports league in the modern world. It has come a tremendous journey over the past few decades, overcoming basketball, baseball and all the other sports business industries in America. From the statistical information, it can clearly be seen that NFL has generated more than 6 billion dollars of profit throughout 2013.

moneyAccording to an article published by the Forbes Magazine in 2007, it has been identified that the value of 32 NFL teams is around $957 million each. In addition, they have estimated the cost of five franchises to one billion dollars each. Even the newest franchise of NFL is worth of $782 million, which is much higher than the value of all the basketball, hockey and baseball teams that you can find across United States.  In the year 2008, Wayne Huizenga, who is the owner of Miami Dolphins agreed to sell half of his team for $500 million. It clearly shows the demand that NFL teams have in the present world. However, this research was conducted seven years back and experts predict that it will be much higher in the present world.

How do they get all this money? Well, a majority of their revenues come through television broadcasts. The National Football League receives more than 2 billion dollars through its television broadcast. In addition, they receive over one billion dollars by selling tickets, merchandise and through advertising. Since they get a good profit, all the NFL players have got the opportunity to experience amazing salaries. According to the player contracts, the players are entitled to receive more than 59.5 percent of the gross revenues. A single player can therefore receive around $1.4 million a year as the salary.

super-bowl-sports-bettingA large percentage of the NFL revenues have to be spent on stadiums. Unlike other sports, NFL is played in palatial stadiums, which are associated with a wide variety of expenses. They also have to spend a lot of money as taxpayers. However, NFL can be summarized as a veritable cash machine that Americans have got. The incredible popularity and wealth of NFL has even motivated them to think of expansions. Even though it holds the number one position in the sports industry for profits, the entire league is humble in the extreme. That can be considered as the main reason behind their increasing popularity throughout the past 7 decades.

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Thompson recalls Super Bowl XXXIII loss

sexy-denver-broncos-betsSaturday night’s game was played in the same Qualcomm Stadium where the Packers lost Super Bowl XXXIII to Denver.

General Manager Ted Thompson was the Packers’ director of player personnel that season and said he remembered few details from the game.

“You remember the locker room after the game, even the weird party,” Thompson said. “You always have a party after the Super Bowl, and when you win like we did at New Orleans (the previous year) it’s really a good party. Wwhen you lose, it’s sort of a surreal. I love San Diego but that’s not necessarily a good memory.

“I remember almost every play of the game at New Orleans, but I don’t remember much from that game. As I recall both offenses were pretty productive and both teams were going down the field.”


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McNabb’s talking Super Bowl Eagles

Philly Eagles CheerleaderHe had not come right out and said it, in part because, until Monday’s news conference, no one specifically had asked the question. But here’s what Donovan McNabb expects for the Eagles this season: “We are a Super Bowl team.”McNabb said it, and he meant it. Just like Tiki Barber meant it when he recently declared the Giants a championship-caliber team. Just like Mark Brunell meant it when, two weeks ago, he said anything short of a title for the Redskins would be a failure.

Players, particularly accomplished veterans, are supposed to be brimming with confidence in August. It is the month of optimism, when players state goals and send notice out to the league that yes, their team is loaded, their team is tough, their team is going to be difficult to beat.

Who is to argue when the real games haven’t even begun?

philadelphia eagles super bowl oddsStill, McNabb’s pronouncement was striking, given the Eagles’ bust of a 2005 season. In a wide-ranging 30-minute interview after his news conference, McNabb made another prediction.

“I think (if) we get back to the form we were at, we can change 6-10 to possibly 13-3, or 14-2, possibly,” McNabb said. “I would love to say 16-0, but we can get back to that winning season. I think it is possible. I don’t think it’s out of reach.”
Fourteen wins and just two losses? Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, the Eagles never have won 14 games in a season. Their 13-3 record of 2004 is the benchmark.

Only five teams this decade have won 14 or more games in a season: St. Louis in 2001, New England in 2003, New England and Pittsburgh (15) in 2004, and Indianapolis last year.

It is a lofty goal, to say the least.

philadelphia eagles oddsMcNabb isn’t a blustery, in-your-face, talk-a-bunch-of-trash kind of player. He is a thoughtful guy, not necessarily cautious but not wildly flamboyant with his words either. He qualified his comments by insisting he wasn’t “saying it overconfidently or with my chest out. It’s just kind of that push we have in that locker room.”

Despite the Eagles’ lack of a big-time wide receiver and Brian Westbrook’s ongoing injury issues, McNabb really likes this team. He mentioned the depth and talent on defense – particularly along the line and in the secondary – and said he expects the defense to be ranked in the top five in the NFL. He named a variety of options on offense, including almost all of his receivers, tight ends L.J. Smith and Matt Schobel, and Westbrook.

Sure, McNabb is concerned about Westbrook’s sprained left foot, and even more concerned about Todd Pinkston’s healing Achilles tendons. He cautioned everyone not to set unrealistic expectations for young receiver Hank Baskett. And he acknowledged that Jabar Gaffney is still trying to learn the offense, and Darnerien McCants is still trying to master it.

But this team, McNabb said, reminds him of the 2004 team that went to the Super Bowl, with one notable exception.

bet on the philadelphia eagles“We don’t have the big-name receiver that everybody can talk about, but just the team as a whole,” McNabb said. “We have some great talent on defense that’s going to be really exciting, where I think our defense can get back to top five in the league. Offensively, people still talk about our run game and we don’t have that No. 1 receiver, but offensively I think we can get back to kind of that top-five, top-10 offense where we’re doing a lot of different things to create mismatches. …

“I think it’s important that we get back to our offense, to running our offense. Add some wrinkles in there to create a lot of mismatches and holes in the defenses we play, but I still feel the talent is there.”

The `04 Eagles held opponents to 16.3 points per game and scored 24.1 points per game. They had the league’s 10th-best defense and ranked second in sacks, while the offense was eighth in scoring and ninth in total yards.

bet the eaglesTerrell Owens was an integral part of the offense, and his importance cannot be overstated. He infused the team with confidence and drew double teams that freed other receivers to make plays. Westbrook had 73 receptions, just four fewer than Owens, and rushed for more than 800 yards. Pinkston pulled down 36 catches, and Smith grabbed 34.

It’s way too early to say the `06 Eagles will have that kind of balance on offense, but from what he’s seen over the last several weeks, McNabb thinks they can. It is not unrealistic, McNabb said, for Reggie Brown to have 70 catches this season, Baskett to have 50, and Gaffney, McCants, Schobel and Smith to have 30 apiece.

Philadelphia_Eagles_Las_VegasOf course, as the Redskins learned Sunday night, expectations can change in an instant. Four minutes into Washington’s preseason game against Cincinnati, Clinton Portis dislocated his left shoulder tackling a Bengals cornerback after Brunell threw an interception. Backup running back Kerry Carter later suffered torn ligaments in his knee, effectively ending his season before it began.

Portis likely will be back once the regular season starts, but even he acknowledged that the injury could dog him all season. He is a focal point of the Redskins’ offense. Without him healthy, they struggle.
That’s the thing about Super Bowl aspirations. Almost anybody can have them in August.

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The NFL is the most popular sports league in America

Even though NFL got the opportunity to become a major professional sport during 1950s, they were not able to reap its maximum benefits for few years. It all happened during 1960s where the league created an ideal platform for economic dominance. In the year 1959, Bert Bell, who was the long time NFL commissioner diet because of a sudden heart attack and Pete Rozelle came into play after that. He was there in the position for about 30 years, which delivered promising results to the American sports business.

NFL playoffsRozelle did many things in order to enhance the popularity of NFL and generate more revenues. The partnerships he established with television networks hold a prominent place out of them. In the present world, most of NFL’s revenues come from television broadcasts. During Rozelle’s time, people were in need of sports broadcasts. Baseball was dominating the channels at that time, but its popularity gradually reduced with the introduction of NFL. As a result of the NFL popularity, popular announcers came into commentary and NFL players got the opportunity to make money through commercials. All these plans were in the mind of Rozelle and he was able to execute them in a convenient manner.

nfl-on-grassIn the meantime, NFL owners were able to increase their revenues through selling tickets. Even though some owners were afraid that increased television broadcast can reduce gate revenues, it didn’t happen like that. Instead, the gate revenues increased dramatically because of the popularity. This motivated Rozelle to move the league’s office to Rockefeller Center in the New York City. This opened opportunities for a wide range of revenue sharing plans that were targeting small market teams such as Green Bay packers. This gave the chance for such teams to obtain a competitive balance in the industry and ensure a competitive industry.

Over the past few years, the popularity of NFL increased gradually and its television contracts brought in a lot of revenue. In the present world, they have established partnerships with major television networks such as ESPN, Fox, CBS and NBC. These six year deals have the potential to bring in over 12 billion dollars for the 32 teams.

peyton manning super bowl MVP bets

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Chicago Bears NFL Preseason

Betting on the Chicago BearsThe Chicago Bears evacuated training camp Wednesday in a caravan of luxury SUVs northbound on Interstate 57, thereby rendering RD’s pub a celebrity-free zone for another year. From now on, what happens in practice stays in practice, and the players are spared the daily gauntlet of adoring children and autograph hounds. Plus, they can, more or less successfully, avoid reporters between game days.Now, it’s time to get to work installing wild and crazy stuff that will set the NFL ablaze


Three weeks and three days before the season-opener at Green Bay, there is little concern about the Bears’ defense.
Teams win Super Bowls with defenses like this one.

But not with offenses like the Bears fielded last season.

The thing is, the Bears offense doesn’t have to be a lot better to take the next postseason step (win a game) or two (reach the Super Bowl) or even three (throw a championship parade down Michigan Avenue). Just enough better to score one more field goal per game. Or two, to be safe.

sexy-nfl-chicks“I’m not going to get caught up in stats,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner says. “If I worried about where our offense ranked statistically, we’d have done different things to get our ranking higher. We wouldn’t have won 10 games, but we’d have been ranked higher.

“Last year, we did what we had to to do win games.”

Effectively, that meant teaching rookie quarterback Kyle Orton how not to lose games: Take care of the ball, and when the defense gift-wraps possession deep in enemy territory, score.

But to be a real Super Bowl contender – as opposed to hallucinating, as the Bears did in 2005 – a team’s offense must be able to win games on occasion. The time will come when a quarterback must drive the field and get a touchdown in 90 seconds. Orton is not yet that quarterback, and that’s why his rookie accomplishments earned him a demotion to third string on the depth chart.

Rex Grossman might be that quarterback. Mostly due to injuries, he has played fewer games in his three NFL seasons than Orton did last year. But Grossman has the ability to make big plays, and so he tops the Bears’ depth chart. Unfortunately, sometimes those big plays are mistakes that benefit the opposing team.

DaBears ChicagoThat’s why the Bears signed veteran starter Brian Griese, who has proven himself quite capable of moving the ball downfield with a minimum of mistakes. On the other hand, Griese’s only playoff experience in eight seasons came his rookie year in Denver, where he watched from the bench as John Elway won the Broncos a Super Bowl.

Suddenly, though, the Bears might have the deepest QB corps in pro football. Not the best corps, mind you, but that’s OK. They don’t have to be great. They simply have to be good enough to win when the defense yields, say, 18-20 points.

“We’ve got to be more productive this year,” Turner agrees. “I know that to go farther, we need to take care of the football like we did last year, and we need to run the football like we did, but we also need to be more productive passing. That doesn’t mean throw it more. That means throw it better and more efficiently, and make plays when they’re there.”

Whether the Bears quarterbacks – one or all of them – can do that remains to be seen. If they can, though, a Super Bowl could be more than a dream.

Chicago Bears Super Bowl Odds

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Blame TV for useless NFL preseason games

New York Giants Super Bowl OddsNormally, you don’t want to find yourself in agreement with Jeremy Shockey. The New York Giants’ tight end, while a valuable player, also is something of a caveman. But on the subject of preseason football, Shockey’s recent comment that two-a-day practices and four preseason games are a “debacle” and “dangerous” is the only logical position to take.

Of course, the NFL isn’t listening, not when the telecast of a preseason game can attract 7 million viewers, which is what happened a week ago. There’s far too much money to be made, so the games will continue. And they also will continue to be unnecessarily dangerous, as we saw Sunday night in the game between the Bengals and Redskins.

49ers-sexy-super-bowl-betsOnly four minutes in, Clinton Portis suffered a partial dislocation of his left shoulder. The starters weren’t scheduled to play more than 15 plays, and they didn’t; the starting offensive unit took 13, to be exact. But that was long enough for Portis to get hurt. He got crunched while making a tackle after a Mark Brunell pass was intercepted. So Portis got hurt making an earnest effort on a worthless play he shouldn’t even have been involved in during a meaningless game. One would think Portis will be ready to start the season, but we’re talking about an injured shoulder on a running back.

It’s not news that football players get hurt. And none of the injuries the Redskins suffered was as gruesome or significant as, say, the blast to the knee of Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer in that playoff game against the Steelers in January.
But it’s worth getting hurt in the playoffs because it’s the playoffs. It is unspeakably unnecessary to get hurt in the preseason because it’s nothing.

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Steelers expect to improve, even after winning Super Bowl

The Pittsburgh Steelers have heard all the explanations why they won the Super Bowl.They got hot at the right time. They got the breaks, especially with the officiating and injuries to opposing stars such as Carson Palmer. They didn’t have to play the Patriots, the team that had beaten them twice in four years for the AFC championship.

steelers-super-bowl-XLHow about this explanation, one that several Steelers suggested: Maybe they were the best team in the NFL when they won the Super Bowl. And how about this prediction, one they willingly offered: Maybe they will be even better this season.

“I feel like we definitely were the best football team,” linebacker Joey Porter said.

To Porter, the Steelers’ only true loss last season was to Indianapolis in the regular season, a defeat they made up for by beating the Colts in the AFC playoffs. Two overtime losses, to Jacksonville and Baltimore, came with Tommy Maddox at quarterback – and he was No. 3 on their depth chart when the season ended. They also lost close games at home to the Patriots and Bengals, but they won twice in Cincinnati.

“I do hear stuff, and it’s like a smack in the face,” linebacker Larry Foote said Tuesday. “We were just playing the best ball at the right time. I mean, isn’t that the goal of every team, to be playing the best ball at the end of the season? So it doesn’t make sense to me when I hear analysts say, `Oh, they just got hot at the right time.’ ”

Steelers Super Bowl OddsThe Steelers made an unprecedented run as the No. 6-seeded team in the AFC, winning three road games in as many weeks before beating Seattle 21-10 in the Super Bowl. Because they were judged to be a one-season anomaly rather than the real deal – despite their 25-6 record over the last two seasons – they don’t always hear their name mentioned among the primary contenders this season.

“(The Patriots’) Tom Brady is out there, (the Colts’) Peyton Manning is out there, and they would be logical picks – and they can keep on doing that,” Foote said. “But we’re going to be ready when we step on that field, against anybody.”

The Steelers had most of their primary players signed to multiyear contracts, so they did not have to tear themselves apart to stay under the salary cap – as many Super Bowl winners have had to do. They lost one starter on offense (WR Antwaan Randle El) and two on defense (DE Kimo von Oelhoffen and S Chris Hope), plus longtime star Jerome Bettis, whose loss may be the greatest of all because of his leadership.

Still, with so many players entering what should be the peak years of their careers, the Steelers think they could easily be better than they were last season. They are relatively young, too, with only two starters on offense older than 29: Ward (30) and center Jeff Hartings (33).

pittsburgh steelersThe oldest starter on what was the NFL’s No. 4 defense last season is linebacker James Farrior, who is 31. Cornerback Deshea Townsend and Aaron Smith are 30.

“I mean, we definitely are a lot more confident on defense, but we got to put the work in,” Foote said. “We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the players who can get it done, so this is all about upstairs. Did we get smarter this year? Can we eliminate our mistakes and just come out flying?”

The biggest change on defense finds former Redskins safety Ryan Clark replacing Hope at free safety. All-Pro strong safety Troy Polamalu is worried about Hope’s departure, wondering if it is possible to develop the same instinctive relationship with another safety that he had with Hope. Hope signed with the Tennessee Titans as a free agent.

betting on footballPolamalu often lines up at different positions on nearly every play, to change the angles the Steelers’ pass rush takes at quarterbacks and to keep opposing offenses guessing what pressure they will bring. To have this kind of flexibility, Polamalu needs the other safety to react to what he is doing, often with no warning.

From what Foote sees, that hasn’t been a problem so far in training camp.

“Yeah, that’s going OK,” Foote said. “Troy’s got to be a little more vocal – I think Chris Hope was a lot more vocal. But the safeties we have are vocal – Ryan Clark, Tyrone (Carter), Mike Logan – so Troy will be able to do his thing.”

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NFL preseason predictions are a joke

Detroit Tigers BetsThe biggest story in baseball this year is what? The Detroit Tigers? Welcome to the NFL, where there is a Detroit Tigers-caliber turnaround every season. Except, of course, in Detroit.

“People always ask me to critique this team, tell me what your record is going to be, are you going to make the playoffs?” said Ted Thompson, Packers general manager. “Who really knows what’s going to happen? I think it has a chance to be a pretty darn good team, but we’ll see.”

You laugh. You say, “Weren’t the Packers 4-12 last season?” Yes, they were. And no, I don’t think they’ll win or participate in Super Bowl XL.

Cleveland Browns Super Bowl BetsBut check out this conversation in 1999: Beat writer for expansion Cleveland Browns to colleague in St. Louis: “Hey, I’ll see you this fall when the Browns are in town.”

Colleague in St. Louis: “Yeah, at least the Browns will have one win this year. The Rams are terrible!” The Rams were 4-12 the year before. In 1999, they were 13-3 and won Super Bowl XXXIV.

“It is kind of funny how quickly things change,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “A year ago, nobody picked the Bears to win the NFC North. Except us, of course. We knew we could do it, even after we started 1-3. But until you do it, who is going to believe you?” The Bears were 5-11 in 2004. Last year, they were 11-5. Now, they’re so well-respected, the Vikings and Lions are copying their defensive scheme, the Tampa-2 – minus Brian Urlacher, of course.

Green Bay Packers Super Bowl BetsIn 2000, the Patriots were 5-11 and Bill Belichick was still a failure as a head coach. A year later, he trips over a bench-warmer named Tom Brady, wins the first of three Super Bowls in four years and punches his ticket to the Pro Football Hall of Fame the moment he retires.

So why can’t the Packers shock the league like that this year? The defense, which was respectable last season, will have as many as five upgraded starters, including veteran cornerback Charles Woodson and fifth overall draft pick A.J. Hawk at linebacker.

Offensively, if running back Ahman Green stays heathy and Brett Favre, the most experienced passer in league history, throws the ball to the right team, and…

“I say very little controversial things in the press,” Thompson said with a laugh. “So I’m not going to add anything to somebody’s bulletin board. I think every team in the division is improved. And because they were the runaway champions last season, and because they have such a dominant defense, I think you have to favor Chicago in our division. At least initially.”

Packers Super Bowl OddsThe Packers have 53 first- or second-year players out of 89 currently taking part in training camp. Who’s to say they won’t be good players? Rookie receiver Greg Jennings, a second-round head-turner from Western Michigan, would be pushing for the No. 1 job if he were in Mankato.

“I feel like he’s kind of a natural at what he does,” Favre said. “Sometimes, guys in their first or second year, they show up and make plays and you go, `Whoa, that’s why we drafted them.’ We have guys who can do that. But it remains to be seen what can happen.”

He’s right. Preseason predictions are a joke.

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Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward still one of hardest-working Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl OddsAs the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time leading receiver, and fresh off a Super Bowl MVP performance, Hines Ward could probably ease into his ninth NFL training camp. But then he wouldn’t be Hines Ward.”I asked him the other day why he takes so many plays,” said newcomer Ryan Clark. “I mean, he’s already a superstar receiver. But he said he still has to work, still has to make the team every year. When you see a guy like that, a veteran leader, a Super Bowl MVP, there’s no reason why a free agent or a young guy can’t work hard every day.”

Ward reported to camp at 205 pounds, which he says is the lightest of his career. He stays after practice every day to catch passes from a machine – sometimes using just one hand to perfect his technique. He stays longer still to work out with rookie receiver Santonio Holmes.

Ward, a four-time Pro Bowler, just turned 30. Wouldn’t simply maintaining his level of play at that age be enough work?hines ward super bowl mvp“Technically, yeah,” Ward laughed. “But for me, that’s who I am. I’m very competitive.

“I’m not content with winning a Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP. I think there’s a lot of room in my game I can always improve on and I won’t be satisfied. I want to hit that 10,000-yard mark for my career; I want to be mentioned right there along with Stallworth and Swann; and of course I want to go out and win another Super Bowl.”

Ward caught everything Ben Roethlisberger threw Wednesday night, the quarterback’s best practice yet. But if Roethlisberger is back, so is Ward.

Steelers Super Bowl OddsAfter averaging 95 catches for 1,124 yards each of the previous four seasons, Ward caught 69 passes for 975 yards last season. He did have 11 touchdown passes, just one off his career high, and moved into first place on the Steelers’ all-time receptions list.

“Even though I didn’t have great stats, I had a better year last year than I did the year I caught 112 balls,” Ward said. “What I had to do without a guy like Plaxico Burress on the other side, and to still put up double-digit touchdowns and up my yards per catch, I did the little things, converted third downs and made big plays when I had to. So for me, that counts way more than stats.”

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