Every year, Sports Illustrated polls current NFL players and personnel to see who they think is the league's dirtiest player. This year, the top draw is Hines Ward... in a landslide. As a lifelong die-hard Steeler fan, I take issue with this, and I'll tell you why in a second.
First, let's recognize how awesome Hines is for how he handled it.
"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.
Now, I live in Southwest Ohio, near Cincinnati, so I experience my fair share of Steeler hate. Almost everyone here condemns Hines Ward as a dirty player, and some go as far to label him a horrible human being (!?!?!?!). I can understand them hating him like I hate Chad Ochostinko, but I will never concede that he is a dirty player.
I think there are a few specific things that draw the hatred. First, Hines Ward loved to stiff arm DBs, and especially loves to stiff arm them right in the face mask. Dumb fans know that you can't tackle somebody by grabbing the facemask, so they probably assume that Hines can't do it either, but they're wrong. Secondly, the crackback blocks. This is probably what got him recognized by other players. Whiny little DBs are so used to dishing out the hits that they never expect to get blasted. It's your job to keep your eyes open all the time, and if you're not paying attention when Hines is running at you, you'll get your head knocked off. But let's be clear: THE HITS ARE LEGAL, NOT DIRTY!!! He doesn't lead with his head. He doesn't take out their knees. He doesn't leave his feet and spear the guy. He just runs them over with his shoulder. Watch this video of him decleating Ed Reed, Bart Scott, Keith Rivers, and others.
This guy is a shoe-in Hall of Famer, and opposing coaches love saying how this is the kind of guy you want to build your team with. I'll never understand why everyone considers him dirty, but it's probably because they are used to seeing whimpy WRs every week. Whatever.... go Steelers.