Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Would Ward look good in Orange & Brown?

As the Pittsburgh Steelers continue to cut players and restructure contracts to try and get under the NFL salary cap before free agency begins on March 13, the team may have an unexpected move up its sleeve.

According to NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora, the Steelers may release Hines Ward, a 14-year veteran at wide receiver.

Ward was the third wide receiver last year behind Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, and put up his lowest receiving numbers since his rookie season – 46 receptions for 381 yards and two touchdowns (basically he was Mohamed Massaquoi).

If the report is true and the Steelers release Ward before his March 1 roster bonus is due, should the Browns take a look at bringing Ward to town? While his best days are clearly behind him, the thought of Ward joining the Browns in a mentoring role is, we have to admit, intriguing.

Ward knows how to play the game, he knows the other teams in the AFC North, and there’s little doubt he could teach Greg Little, Massaquoi, Carlton Mitchell and Jordan Norwood some important lessons about playing wide receiver at the NFL level.

There’s no way of knowing if Ward would be interested in the role – or how he would feel about the prospect of going back to Pittsburgh in a Cleveland uniform. If he is only going to play one or two more years, it would seem likely that he would want to go to a team that is a playoff contender (assuming someone wants him).

“It would be weird, not how I want it to happen,” Ward told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in January. “But I do want to play. I still think I can play. I’m not even thinking like that – what if. If that scenario happens, I’ll be devastated, but I do want to play football.

“I’m willing to restructure, do whatever. I don’t want to be seen in another uniform but, if they decide to part ways, or whatever, I don’t know, I’m not even thinking like that. I couldn’t even fathom myself [in another uniform], but I still want to play football.”

We’re sure there are Browns fans that would revolt at the sight of Ward in a Browns uniform, but if he makes the team better that all that would matter. And, as we said, him coming to Cleveland is probably not a likely scenario.

But it is something to think about.

***

A day after we wondered about racism in English football, Liverpool’s Luis Suárez did his part to make sure the subject won’t die down anytime soon by refusing to shake the hand of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra before the two teams played on Saturday.

It was the first meeting between the two since Suárez was suspended for eight matches for allegedly racially abusing Evra during a game at Anfield in October.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish didn’t help matters after the match when he lashed out at a reporter, saying “I think you’re bank out of order to blame Luis Suárez for anything that happened here today.”

We like the fact that the manager is willing to stand up for his players, but this a situation where Dalglish needs to sit Suárez down and make him understand that, in life, you need to do what is right, not necessarily what is easy. Just shake a hand and move on.

We have to wonder, too, where Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher are in all this. The club is more their squad than anyone else’s; why haven’t we heard from them and why haven’t they pulled Suárez aside to set him straight?

Suárez not being willing to move on fueled what is already a hot rivalry and led to police having to separate players from both teams when the teams scuffled in the tunnel at halftime.

It wasn’t all Liverpool, however, despite what United manager Alex Ferguson would like people to believe. Evra made a point to find Suárez after the game and celebrate in front of him, and police confiscated thousands of copies of a Manchester United fanzine that included a poster of a Ku Klux Klan hood along with the words LFC and Suárez in Innocent.

Nice.

For more perspectives on the story, check out:

EPL Talk: The Day Class left the Stadium

This is Anfield: Proof – Evra refuses Suárez handshake

The Guardian: Dalglish’s dignity in tatters

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