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Steelers' Ward arrested for DUI; apologizes to fans

| Sunday, July 10, 2011

Steelers receiver and "Dancing With the Stars" champion Hines Ward apologized to his fans Saturday after his arrest in Georgia on a drunken driving charge but insisted he did nothing wrong.

The Super Bowl XL MVP was booked into the DeKalb County jail outside of Atlanta at 3:41 a.m. and charged with driving under the influence, said DeKalb Sheriff's Sgt. Adrion Bell. Ward was released at 6:30 a.m. after posting $1,300 bond, Bell said.

Andy Ree, Ward's business manager, issued a statement on Ward's behalf saying Ward was "deeply saddened by this incident."

"From our preliminary investigation, we can tell you that we are confident that the facts show Hines was not impaired by alcohol while driving," Ree said.

The Steelers know about Ward's arrest, team spokesman Burt Lauten said. He declined further comment. The Steelers are not allowed to contact Ward because of the NFL lockout.

The league will review the incident after a new labor deal is reached, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. But Ward probably won't be subject to anything more than a fine and some sort of evaluation because first DUI offenses violate the NFL's substance abuse policy but not its personal conduct policy.

DeKalb police said police stopped Ward about 2:30 a.m. on Buford Highway after an officer noticed his Aston Martin failing to stay in a lane and striking a curb. Ward failed a field sobriety test and refused to take a Breathalyzer test, police said. He told officers he had been at a nightclub and consumed two drinks. A passenger, who had not been drinking, drove the car from the scene to prevent it from being impounded, police said.

Social media websites buzzed about Ward's arrest.

Steelers free safety Ryan Clark posted on Twitter about 1:50 p.m.: "Sad to hear about Hines! Still a good man. We all make mistakes and he's a champ & will learn from his. Praise God everyone is safe!"

Opinions on Ward varied on Facebook. Before Ward's official and personal pages disappeared from public view just before 3 p.m., fans weighed in, some supporting him and others condemning his behavior.

"Praying for you Hines ... everyone makes mistakes ... we love you, learn by it and put it behind you!!!" Facebook user Sara Silbaugh-Estepp posted.

Matt Vargo, another Facebook poster, wrote: "All you had to do was call a cab. You dropped the ball, Hines."

On Ward's personal Facebook page, he posted several times Friday about his "bad habit" of texting while driving.

"How many of you guys and gals text while driving• I am bad at doing that. It's very unsafe. Help remind me from time to time to stop texting, tweeting, or facebook while driving. Let's help each other!" he posted at 11:05 a.m. Friday.

This was Ward's second contact with police in three months.

He was handcuffed and detained at gunpoint by Los Angeles police May 5 in North Hollywood when a car in which he was a passenger was reported stolen. The report was out of date and mistakenly still in police records, the LAPD said.

Bob Dorfman, executive creative director of Baker Street Advertising in northern California, said the DUI arrest could taint Ward's image, particularly due to the timing. Less than two months ago he and professional dancer Kym Johnson won the "DWTS" Mirror Ball Trophy to become the season 12 champions of the TV celebrity dance competition.

"He became a more publicized athlete because of winning 'Dancing With the Stars,' so the more people know who he is," Dorfman said.

Since being drafted in the third round out of Georgia in 1998, Ward has been a four-time Pro Bowl selection and won two Super Bowls. He is the most prolific receiver in Steelers history, holding nearly every major receiving record in franchise history, including career catches, yards and touchdowns.

Ward was the recipient of the 2011 Art Rooney Award, which honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the Pittsburgh area in fields such as business, sports, politics, philanthropy, education and science.

Steeler Nation can be very forgiving, Dorfman said. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger rebounded after two sexual assault accusations 18 months apart — the second found him accused of assaulting a college student in the bathroom of a bar in Milledgeville, Ga., about 90 miles southeast of where Ward was arrested. Roethlisberger was never charged.

"It is (Ward's) first mistake," Dorfman said. "If he can stay on the straight and narrow and have a great season, do all the right things, meaning apologize, show contrition, promise to never do it again and make sure that you never do it again, he can probably get back and still be a marketable athlete."

Staff writer Craig Smith and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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