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Ward voted NFL's dirtiest player

| Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009

Josh McDaniels said Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is the kind of player around whom franchises are built.

"He's one of those guys when you say tough, physical football player, his face is probably right there in the dictionary," the Denver Broncos coach said Wednesday.

Ward's peers say he's synonymous with more than just a physical brand of play, though.

A panel of 296 NFL players -- less than 18 percent of the players on active rosters -- voted Ward the dirtiest player in the league. The anonymous voting, which was conducted in September, will be printed in this week's edition of Sports Illustrated.

The (almost) dirty dozen
In a Sports Illustrated poll on the NFL's dirtiest players, Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward won in a landslide. Here's a breakdown of the vote:
Player Team Pos. Pct.
Hines Ward Steelers WR 11.6
Albert Haynesworth Redskins DT 6.0
Joey Porter Dolphins OLB 6.0
Roy Williams Bengals S 5.1
Kevin Mawae Titans C 4.6
Cortland Finnegan Titans CB 4.2
Harvey Dahl Falcons G 3.7
Richie Incognito Rams G 3.7
Troy Polamalu Steelers S 3.3
Jared Allen Vikings DE 3.2
296 players took part in the poll anonymously

Ward, widely considered the best blocking wide receiver in the game, got 11 percent of the vote, nearly doubling the amount cast for Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and Dolphins outside linebacker Joey Porter, a former Steelers player.

"I beat Joey• Wow," Ward said, with a laugh. "How can I be the dirtiest player on the field -- a little, old wideout with no speed• I don't know whether to be happy or mad about it."

Ward wore a grin as wide as a jack-o'-lantern's as he answered questions following practice yesterday, suggesting he's more amused than anything by the dubious honor.

The 12-year veteran has routinely dealt with complaints that his physical play sometimes crosses a line. And last March, the NFL enacted what's commonly known as the "Hines Ward Rule," which penalizes the kind of crack-back blocks with which Ward used to break the jaw of Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers last season.

"I'm not going to change the way I play," said the 33-year-old Ward, who's fifth in the NFL with 602 receiving yards. "If people think I'm dirty, I apologize to them now."

Several of Ward's teammates said there's no need for the four-time Pro Bowler to apologize for the way he plays the game.

"By no shape, form or fashion do I consider Hines a dirty person," outside linebacker James Harrison said. "Those must be people who can't take a little bit of a crack-back block. I don't consider it dirty."

Added free safety Ryan Clark: "Other guys are such pansies now. When I play a guy like (Ward), I vote for that guy to go to the Pro Bowl."

Ward's reputation offers something of a contrast to all of the work he does away from the field. He was a finalist for the 2008 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is given annually to the player that does the most for charity.

What surprised Ward and his teammates more than his spot atop the poll for dirtiest player was Troy Polamalu's inclusion in the top 10. The soft-spoken safety is ninth with 3.3 percent of the vote.

"Our Troy• Wow," Ward said. "Troy being on that list is definitely a shocker."

Said Polamalu when asked about his supposedly dirty play, "I always do my hair before the game."

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