Wake-up: Ward not considering retirement

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
7:26
AM ET
Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

Hines Ward isn't planning to retire after this season and said the only way he doesn't play for the Steelers next season is if the organization cuts him.

So, in his mind, this won't be his final home game at Heinz Field.

"I'm not even thinking that this is my last one," Ward said, via The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "If the organization decides to, I have no control over that. But, for me, I'm not even thinking this is my last game ever [at Heinz Field]. I feel fine. I feel like I can play another year or two if I want to."

Finishing up his 14th season, Ward needs nine receptions to become only the eighth receiver in NFL history with 1,000 and owns nearly every Steelers receiving record.

Hensley's slant: If I were Ward, I might take time to savor the moment Saturday because it could be his last at Heinz Field. He lost the starting job he'd held for 13 years last month. He didn't have a pass thrown his way last game. Ward would be behind Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders on the depth chart next season. And $4 million, which is what Ward is scheduled to receive in 2012 and 2013, is likely too much to pay a No. 4 wide receiver.

BENGALS: The Brown family is close to buying the 30 percent of the Bengals that they don't own, according to Forbes magazine. The Browns are paying $200 million in cash to the Knowlton estate. Austin Knowlton, a founder of the team, died in 2003. The Bengals have been valued at $875 million, which ranks 25th out of the 32 NFL teams. Hensley's slant: The Bengals are the league's northern-most franchise without an indoor facility. If winter weather hits next week (or beyond if the team makes the playoffs), the Bengals have to drive to the University of Cincinnati's indoor facility. I'm not an NFL owner, but I'm guessing it would cost less than $200 million to build one of your own.

BROWNS: Seneca Wallace will officially start at Baltimore on Saturday, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer speculates that he will get the nod over Colt McCoy for the season finale against Pittsburgh because the team would want to avoid dressing McCoy for a rematch against James Harrison. Wallace, 31, also has thoughts about starting beyond this season. "I haven't had that legit opportunity to be the No. 1 and who knows what could happen if I got that opportunity," Wallace told the paper. "You never know. It might happen. It might not, so we'll see." Hensley's slant: Wallace has looked good at times this season and might have thrown the game-winning touchdown pass against the Steelers if the Browns hadn't pulled him for a concussed McCoy. But Wallace is considered a very dependable backup in this league and not a starter. That's where his future lies.

RAVENS: Starting quarterback Joe Flacco is adamant that the team isn't satisfied with reaching the playoffs anymore. "We've won a playoff game the last three years, and it hasn't been good enough," he said, via The Baltimore Sun. "We need to go out there and start playing our best football right now. And that's what we're excited about. We're excited about going out there and continuing to improve and really get to the point where we're playing our best football so that we can go into these playoffs and have a lot of success, rather than just success." Hensley's slant: The best way for the Ravens to go further in the playoffs than previous years is getting some home games and a bye in the postseason. If the Ravens win their next two games, they earn a top-two seed and a much easier road. If the Ravens are truly focused on their Super Bowl goal, they won't drop the ball like they did in San Diego.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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