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Ward prepared to speak mind

| Thursday, May 31, 2012, 9:38 p.m.
Chaz Palla
Hines Ward retired from pro football more than three years ago.

For 14 years, Hines Ward used criticism to fuel his football career.

Now, the recently retired Steelers wide receiver is ready to dish out some negativity, and his former team isn't going to be exempt.

Ward was hired Thursday as an analyst on NBC's “Football Night in America” studio show and also will contribute to NBC Sports Network, where he will be a studio analyst during Notre Dame games and appear on the weekday “NBC Sports Talk” show with Mike Florio and Peter King.

But Ward's main job will be analyzing the NFL on Sunday nights, starting with the Steelers at Denver in Week 1.

“It won't be hard (to criticize),” Ward said. “One thing about playing football and doing interviews, I was always opinionated, and sometimes people didn't like what I said. I am sure there are going to be games where somebody goes into the locker room and says to them that Hines didn't pick you. I can't pick (the Steelers) every week.”

Ward, who retired in March, was part of NBC's Super Bowl coverage this past February. Ward also interviewed with CBS and ESPN in late April.

“We think Hines is a perfect match for television because he brings with him a unique combination of charisma and football experience …,” NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network executive producer Sam Flood said. “He's an opinionated personality who can draw upon his 14 years of experience, having excelled at the highest levels of the game.”

Ward said he will be tough but fair with his analysis.

“If I see a player not playing particularly well and if I say he isn't playing well, I am not bashing him,” Ward said. “I am doing my job. I hope guys aren't going to get offended by what I say. I am not out to be malicious.”

Ward was drafted in the third round in 1998 out of Georgia. He spent 14 years with the Steelers and became the team's all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083), receiving touchdowns (85) and 100-yard receiving games (29). Ward was named Super Bowl XL's MVP.

Ward is the second former Steelers player NBC has hired as an analyst. Jerome Bettis, who retired in 2006, spent three years with NBC's Sunday night studio broadcast team before not having his contract renewed.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com.

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