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Monday, November 27, 2006
Updated: November 28, 1:07 PM ET
Ward to miss only second career game due to injury

ESPN.com news services

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Monday and will miss at least one game.

Wide Receiver
Pittsburgh Steelers

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
Rec Yds TD Avg Long YAC
57 786 6 13.8 70 284

Ward, a four-time Pro Bowl receiver, first hurt the knee Nov. 19 against Cleveland -- an injury initially called a hyperextension. He took painkilling shots to play in a 27-0 loss Sunday at Baltimore, but the injury flared up again during the third quarter and he left the game.

"I tried to play through it," he said.

When an MRI exam Monday revealed a broken bone, Ward immediately underwent arthroscopic surgery. He said the operation was much like that which sidelined quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for three games last season.

The Steelers normally don't disclose injury updates until coach Bill Cowher's press conference Tuesday, but Ward revealed the injury during his weekly paid appearance on KDKA-TV.

Ward hopes to return as early as Pittsburgh's home game against Cleveland on Dec. 7, though the schedule could work against him. The Steelers play two games in five days, with a Sunday home game against Tampa Bay followed by the Cleveland game.

"It's going to be at least one week," said Ward, who has missed only one previous game to injury during his nine-season NFL career. "I'm going to try to get back out there, but I've got to be smart about it ... this is the first time I've ever had surgery."

Ward said the Steelers' 4-7 record and the fact they are all but mathematically eliminated from repeating as Super Bowl champions will not influence his decision to come back as quickly as possible.

"It's about pride now, competing and not throwing in the towel," he said. "I hope guys were embarrassed by the way we played."

With the Steelers out of playoff contention, much of the focus will shift to Cowher's status. Cowher, in his 15th season, hasn't said if he will return -- although he's signed through next season.

Last year, Cowher and his family purchased a luxury home in Raleigh, N.C, where he attended North Carolina State, and there is speculation he may retire there as early as next year.

North Carolina State fired coach Chuck Amato during the weekend, but it is highly unlikely the Steelers would allow a coach under contract to take another job -- even one outside the NFL.

Also, Cowher has never said he would be interested in coaching in college after spending all of his coaching career in the NFL. He was an assistant coach with Cleveland and Kansas City from 1985-91 before being hired by Pittsburgh in 1992.

Ward doesn't believe the uncertainty regarding Cowher's status helped lead to the Steelers' falloff in play this season.

"It's hard to say it's a factor," Ward told KDKA-TV. "As players, it's out of our control. ... We weren't ready to play on Sunday and you can't put that on the coach."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.