AFC North: Art Monk

The Steelers announced they plan on releasing wide receiver Hines Ward, a situation that was never going to end happily.

Ward was going to either get cut or disappear on the Steelers' bench. The only way there is a perfect ending is when the player decides to retire, and that rarely happens.

Ward
"This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end," Ward said in a statement released by his manager. "I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago."

This is the painful side of sports. Jerry Rice went to the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks. Tim Brown finished with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Art Monk bounced from the New York Jets to the Philadelphia Eagles. And now, Ward likely will complete his career in a uniform that doesn't have the colors black and gold.

It will go down as one of the toughest decisions the Steelers have ever had to make. But it's the right call.

Don't blame the Steelers for making a logical business move. The Steelers can't pay a fourth-string wide receiver $4 million even if they had the salary-cap room.

The brutal reality is the Steelers no longer needed Ward, who turns 36 in nine days. The Steelers' top three wide receivers -- Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders -- each averaged more than 13 yards per catch. Ward, who ranked fourth on the team with 46 receptions, averaged 8.3.

In his statement, Ward thanked team officials and his fans. "I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold," he said.

But Ward doesn't appear ready to retire as a Steeler.

"I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season," he said.

There is no guarantee Ward will play in 2012. The only chance Ward has to continue playing is if a team values his leadership and wants a veteran to be its No. 3 receiver.

The Steelers will now turn their attention toward re-signing Jerricho Cotchery (15 catches and two touchdowns in the final eight games) or another free-agent wide receiver.

Hall of Fame 2008 wrap-up

August, 2, 2008
8/02/08
10:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

 
 AP Photo/Mark Duncan
 Andre Tippett acknowledges fans as he is introduced at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday in Canton, Ohio.

CANTON, Ohio -- Saturday obviously was a celebrated day for the Washington Redskins, but there were several highlights from today's other 2008 Hall of Fame inductees.

Here were the notables:

"We had two Hall of Fame quarterbacks in our division in Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, and he completely changed the passing attack of those two teams," Kraft said. "Once [Tippett] joined the joined the team, the New England Patriots improved dramatically."

"Because I know there's a wager waged somewhere [that I would]," Dean said.

"Growing up, I was resentful and angry at other families around us because they seemed fully intact," Thomas said. "I'd often lay awake at night wondering why our family had to be different.

"But I came to the stark realization that the good Lord wanted us to be reared and raised under the guiding hands of my grandfathered, who in his own right was a giant of a man."

  • Newly inducted Hall of Fame tackle Gary Zimmerman addressed how he used smarts and technique to overcome a bad left shoulder injury that could have otherwise cut short his 12-year career.
  • As a final goodbye, a group of Washington Redskins fans sang "Hail to the Redskins" in the corner of the end zone in Fawcett Stadium as Darrell Green was doing interviews with the NFL Network.
 
 Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE
 Darrell Green, Emmitt Thomas, Art Monk, Gary Zimmerman, Andre Tippett and Fred Dean pose with their busts at the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement at Fawcett Stadium.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CANTON, Ohio -- Darrell Green summed up the 2008 Hall of Fame commencements best on Saturday.

"It's a Redskins day, baby!" Green said.

The sea of burgundy and gold jerseys filled Fawcett Stadium in anticipation of Green and former Washington Redskins teammate Art Monk into the Hall of Fame. Both received lengthy standing ovations before and after their speeches.

Jared Green, Darrell's son, estimated that "95 percent" of the announced crowd of 16,654 were Redskins fans, and his rough guess was pretty close.

There were a wealth of Green jerseys, a wealth of Monk jerseys, and a good mix of jerseys from current Washington players that will take the field Sunday in its preseason debut against the Indianapolis Colts.

Green and Monk didn't disappoint. The pair were never as flashy as their contemporaries but were winners in every sense of the word. Similar to their playing careers, Monk and Green were very consistent in delivering quality speeches.

There were many similarities Saturday.

Both Green and Monk had their sons eloquently introduce them. Both speeches were enlightening and charismatic. Both shared their experience with those that helped them.

And both players went into the Hall as proud Redskins.

"I will always be known as a Redskin," Monk said. "That's right."

Added Green, "To the Redskins faithful, our fans, I share this day with all of you."

Green was the only first-ballot Hall of Famer in the 2008 class. His case was undeniable after 20 stellar seasons, most of which he was the league's fastest man and one of the NFL's best cornerbacks.

But Monk's case was debated over the past several years. His candidacy was rebuked seven times by the Hall of Fame committee, despite Monk statistically ranking among the very best at his position.

Monk had 940 career catches for 12,721 yards. His reception total is right now more than any receiver currently enshrined in Canton. But Monk only was a first-team All-Pro one time, in addition to his three Pro Bowls.

Monk also was never accommodating with the media during his 16-year career, which likely had a hand in his delayed entrance.

Fellow Hall of Famer Paul Warfield, also one of the greatest receivers of all time, believes Monk's case should've never been up for debate.

"Art Monk has had a stellar career," Warfield said. "I saw Art perhaps two weeks ago at an event and congratulated him. It's well deserved. He was statistically a leader until his marks were broken, and he should have been in a long time ago.

"I told Art, 'It doesn't matter, because now you're here.' And that's the most important thing. He deserved to be here and now he's a part of this very prestigious fraternity."

Monk briefly addressed his situation during his commencement speech.

"Now standing next to them, as one of them, is truly an honor,'' Monk said. "Getting here didn't come without consequences. But through it all I'm here with a greater appreciation for something that not every player was able to achieve."

But finally being inducted had to be worth it for Monk, who received the longest-standing ovation of the night.

Redskins fans chanted "Eighty-one!" and "Thank you Monk!" as he smiled and soaked it all in. One sign read "A work of Art" to describe Monk's career as he smiled and enjoyed the elongated appreciation from Redskins fans.

Monk never imagined that football would take him this far, but it did. Saturday, Monk said, was the icing on the cake.

"From the time I picked up a football, I loved this game," Monk said. "It's all I wanted to do."

Overall, this was a day when being long in the tooth was celebrated.

Longevity is the most elusive feat in the National Football League, yet it is the rare common thread that binds the 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame class together this weekend.

Green, Monk, Gary Zimmerman, Andre Tippett, Emmitt Thomas and Fred Dean combined for an astounding 84 years of NFL experience.

But it was the 36 years played by a pair of Redskins that brought a majority of today's onlookers to Canton, a city rich in football history.

"The Redskin Nation sticks together," Green said.

They sure do.

Green gives charismatic speech

August, 2, 2008
8/02/08
8:37
PM ET
 
 AP Photo/Mark Duncan
 Darrell Green, left, jokes around as fans cheer for him at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday in Canton, Ohio. At right is Fred Dean.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CANTON, Ohio -- The crowd of 16,654 rose to its feet before and after a rousing speech gave by former Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green.

Jared Green gave a delightful and often funny introduction of his father, who played 20 seasons in Washington until he retired at the age of 42.

But the former NFL's fastest man couldn't run from his emotions.

"You bet your life I'm going to cry," Green said. "You bet your life I will."

A few moments later, Green cried.

Green was proud of his teammates. He was proud of his parents. He was proud of his wife, and he was proud of his son that flawlessly introduced Darrell Green on one of the proudest days his life.

"That's my boy right there," Green said.

Green was charismatic in his speech. He talked about how he got his start in football, how he nearly quit in college after the death of his friend, and how former coaches such as Joe Gibbs shaped his career.

And it all culminated into a stellar Hall of Fame career that came full circle in Canton today. Not only that, he went in with his longtime teammate and friend -- receiver Art Monk.

"What a great day."

Redskins fans brace themselves

August, 2, 2008
8/02/08
8:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CANTON, Ohio -- Washington Redskins cornerback Darrell Green is next to speak, which has created a buzz here at Fawcett Stadium.

Many people are filing around and getting in their seats, ready to hear what the former 20-year veteran has to say.

By the way, any mention of Green, Art Monk or any former Redskins for that matter has created a rousing group of cheers throughout the evening.

Redskin Parade!

August, 2, 2008
8/02/08
7:36
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

CANTON, Ohio -- Is this Fawcett Stadium or FedEx Field?

It's difficult to tell with the impressive sea of burgundy-and-gold jerseys at Saturday's Hall of Fame ceremonies.

There are a lot of Art Monk and Darrell Green jerseys in Fawcett Stadium, mixed with many jerseys of current Redskins such as running back Clinton Portis.

Green will speak third-to-last this evening, and Monk will be the headliner as the final speaker.

It's no secret the pair of players most people came to see.

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AFC NORTH SCOREBOARD