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Tomlin mystified by Ward's fine

| Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin defended Hines Ward on Tuesday, questioning why the NFL fined his veteran receiver for unnecessary roughness in the team's 26-21 win Oct. 5 over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Ward didn't draw a penalty for blocking on the running play that led to the fine. He received official notification from the NFL on Monday, docking him $10,000 for delivering a blow to a defender's head.

The four-time Pro Bowler previously was fined $5,000 for unnecessary roughness in the Steelers' 23-20 win Sept. 29 over the Baltimore Ravens. That fine also stemmed from a play in which Ward wasn't penalized.

"I join him in being bewildered on the second one," Tomlin said at his weekly news conference. "That's how this guy's played football in this league for a long time. Don't get me wrong, I understand what the league is trying to do from a safety standpoint, and I am for that.

"We've got to be competitive. We've got to be professional. We've got to put a good product out there for our fans. But it's starting to cost a little too much money to come to work for some of these guys."

Ward and three other Steelers players were fined following the Jaguars game. Wide receiver Nate Washington received a $7,500 fine for taunting, and safety Ryan Clark received the same fine for hitting a defenseless receiver.

The NFL also docked outside linebacker James Harrison $20,000 for his post-game comments, which were deemed inappropriate, about the officiating.

Washington and Clark drew 15-yard penalties on the plays in which they were fined.

As for what Ward did to warrant his fine, Tomlin said, "He played football, but I intend to make a phone call to get some clarity this week. I just don't know what merited the fine."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said players still are subject to fines for plays in which they aren't penalized. He said it's been a long-standing policy.

Ward is known for his physical style of play and his relentlessness as a blocker. That reputation, he acknowledged, may open him up to increased scrutiny from the league.

"There's not that many receivers out there getting unnecessary roughness fines put on them," Ward said. "I'm not doing anything illegal. I'm not clipping anybody, hitting anybody behind the leg."

Aiello said the NFL isn't watching Ward any closer than other players at his position.

Tomlin, when asked if he felt the NFL was targeting Ward, said, "I don't choose to use those words. Make no mistake, he plays the wide receiver position different than most people play it, so he's probably viewed a little differently because of that. He's a very physical player. He's a football player first and a wide receiver second.

"The big thing is we want to do what's right, so I need to get him that information. I need to get us that information in terms of what the exact issues are with his quality of play."

Tomlin, whose team visits the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, said he's not concerned that the recent fines Ward incurred will curb his aggressiveness.

Said Ward: "I'm not going to change my play because I'm not going to do anything to hurt our team."

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