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Ward apologizes (sort of) for hit on Fuller

PITTSBRUGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers keep apologizing to
the Cleveland Browns. Sort of.

A day after coach Bill Cowher apologized for cursing at the
Browns' Corey Fuller following the Steelers' 15-12 overtime victory
Sunday, receiver Hines Ward said he shouldn't have taunted safety
Earl Little after leveling him with a hit.

However, Ward said Wednesday he isn't sorry for hitting Little
so hard that it caused a concussion because Little warned him
several plays before that he was coming after Ward.

"My emotions got to me as far as when the guy was down and
standing over him and I'm sorry for that -- that's not me," Ward
said. "But in the heat of battle, when somebody is talking trash
to you, your emotions take over when you get a good hit like that.

"Two plays before that, he said he was going to kill me."

Ward said he stood atop Little not to ridicule him, but to
deliver a message.

"These were my precise words, 'If you're going to sit there and
trash talk and say you're going to do this to me, I end up doing
this to you,' " Ward said. "I'm sorry for what happened and my
reaction afterward, but I'm not sorry I hit him.

"That's the way we play football, and we've been doing it all
year. If he studied any film at all, he's got to see me doing that
to guys."

Cowher said Ward was fortunate he didn't get penalized for
taunting.

"He just told me to be careful and don't try to show up
anybody," Ward said.

"Knowing Hines Ward, he did not mean to stand over the guy and
he was wrong for doing that," Cowher said Tuesday. "He was not trying to
hurt anybody. ... We're all happy he (Little) is fine, and Hines is
the first."

Fuller and Cowher began jawing after Ward leveled Little. Cowher and Fuller again traded angry words following the game,
with Fuller saying Cowher cursed him and challenged him as one
player might do another. Cowher is a former NFL linebacker and
Browns assistant coach.

Cowher's exchange with Fuller was heard by players from both
teams. Browns linebacker Jamir Miller said Monday, "We're all
professionals here. This is a business. We have a mutual respect
for each other. For someone to go off and do all that, especially a
head coach, that says a lot."

The Browns and Steelers end the regular season Jan. 6 in
Pittsburgh, so Cowher no doubt was trying to tone done the rhetoric
-- and stem the flow of bulletin board material -- with the apology.

"I would like to apologize for my actions toward Corey Fuller.
I apologized to the team after the game. I was wrong and I
certainly don't condone those actions," Cowher said.

Ward is on pace to set the Steelers' record for receptions in a season
-- he has 50 in eight games -- but is almost as valuable to the
Steelers as a blocker. Although he is much smaller than his listed
6 feet and 197 pounds, he is often used as a primary blocker on
Jerome Bettis' runs.

"I'm not doing anything illegal, I'm doing everything within
the rules but the other teams aren't used to that, accustomed to a
receiver going after them like that," Ward said. "But I'm happy
with what I'm doing and I'm going to continue doing what I've been
doing."

Steelers safety Lee Flowers isn't surprised opponents are
finally realizing Ward's blocking adds another dimension to the
Steelers' running game. The Steelers (6-2), who lead the AFC
Central, return home Sunday to play the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-5).

"I don't understand what safeties are looking at sometimes when
they're scouting, because this is a guy you've got to watch out
for," Flowers said. "I think people take him for granted because
of his size and because he's always out there playing with a smile
on his face, but he definitely can knock you out."

Ward said he can't worry the Browns might target him for special
attention during their rematch.

"You've always got to keep your head on a swivel," Ward said.
"If I go over the middle, I've got to expect that a safety is
going to try to take my head off. My philosophy is that, until
then, I'm going to hit you before you hit me."