Wide receiver Hines Ward ended his 15-day holdout and reported to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday, without the new contract he wants or a promise he'll get it.
Call it the persuasion of coach Bill Cowher, who talked at length with the four-time Pro Bowl receiver on Sunday night and convinced him of his importance to a team that went 15-1 last season.
''For me, I needed to hear that from my head coach, this support that's all a player can ask for. If your coach doesn't have confidence in you as a ballplayer, maybe you need to part ways,'' Ward said after showing up to watch the Eagles-Steelers exhibition game. ''It's been a long time since we had a conversation like that. ... That's why I'm here, showing good faith, because I want to retire a Steeler.''
Ward became the team's first major holdout in 12 years on July 31 keeping his promise not to report to training camp without a contract extension that would make him one of the NFL's top-paid wide receivers.
The Steelers also kept their promise of not negotiating with a player under contract who is not in camp.
Ward hopes his arrival will lead to a new deal, but realizes an injury or a poor season could significantly reduce his value not just to the Steelers but as a free agent after this season. He has one year remaining on a contract worth $1.66 million this season, but wants guaranteed money that puts him in the upper echelon of NFL receivers.
Ward, disliked being mentioned almost daily with Terrell Owens, who wants more money a year after signing a $49 million contract with the Eagles.
''I hate seeing me put in this situation,'' Ward said. ''It's totally different. ... I don't even think I'd look right in another uniform. ... It's unfortunate it came to a holdout, because I wouldn't miss this season for the world.''
Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington put on his helmet and shoulder pads for the first time at this year's training camp, joining Carlos Rogers and Brandon Noble as Washington welcomed back three key members of their defense.
''It's exciting to me,'' coach Joe Gibbs said, ''because we're getting back some high quality players that have been missing for a while.''
Arrington wore a black sleeve on his right knee, evidence of an injury that has hampered him for nearly a year and caused him to publicly criticize team officials. Rogers, the No. 9 pick in the April draft, worked at cornerback with the starting unit, backpedalling with ease and showing no sign of his ankle injury. Defensive lineman Noble was a little winded but otherwise looked fine in his return after an unusually harsh development a serious infection that developed in his knee after minor surgery.
Jerry Rice moved up the Denver depth chart, running as the No. 3 receiver at practice, ahead of Darius Watts.
Rice was already considered a near shoo-in to make the roster and continue his record-setting career into a 21st season. The move Monday only confirms it.
After practice, the veteran receiver continued with a theme he set when he signed with the Broncos: that he is simply trying to prove himself and make the team.
''I pretty much approach every season never thinking about what I accomplished the year before,'' Rice said.
An MRI on cornerback Fred Smoot's sore right knee revealed no further damage, and the Vikings expect him back on the field soon.
If he's able to participate in practice this week, Smoot could play Friday night at the New York Jets. He was hurt during an intrasquad scrimmage last week.
Smoot, the Vikings' biggest prize during an active offseason in free agency, has barely been able to practice since training camp began. He first missed time because of a neck strain and is now sitting out with the knee injury.
Wide receiver Kelly Campbell, however, will miss at least two weeks with a strained right quadriceps that has kept him out for most of camp. Wide receiver Troy Williamson was on the field Monday, but he didn't participate in practice.
Offensive lineman Anthony Herrera missed practices for the second straight day and was expected to remain in the hospital another night for treatment of cellulitis, an infection in his right leg that is causing severe swelling from the ankle to the knee.
Starting right guard Chris Liwienski suffered a mild separation of his left shoulder during practice, and is day to day.
First-round draft pick Ronnie Brown took the field for his first training camp practice after signing a five-year, $34 million contract that included about $20 million guaranteed.
Brown, the second overall pick in the April draft, tried to make the trip from his home in suburban Atlanta to South Florida late Sunday after the agreement was reached. But his flight was delayed in departing, then finally canceled because of bad weather, forcing him to sleep at the airport before leaving Atlanta on Monday morning.
Gus Frerotte has moved ahead of A.J. Feeley in the Miami Dolphins' quarterback competition and will start Saturday's exhibition game at Pittsburgh.
Rookie Braylon Edwards practiced with Cleveland for the first time, a few days after he ended his two-week contract holdout by signing a five-year, $40 million contract.
Edwards, the No. 3 overall pick, flashed some of his immense talent during the early portion of practice. During one drill, he snagged a pass with one hand and tiptoed down the sideline, drawing oohs and applause from the crowd.
Starting center Jeff Faine missed practice with an injured rib muscle and rookie safety Brodney Pool sat out with a concussion suffered in Saturday night's win over the New York Giants.
First-round draft pick Thomas Davis was moved from safety to linebacker because of depth concerns following an injury to Brandon Short.
Short injured his foot in Saturday night's preseason game against Washington, and the Panthers aren't sure how long he'll be out. Chris Draft, who has backed up Short at strongside linebacker, has had a handful of asthma attacks that have limited him in training camp.
Alex Barron practiced for the first time after ending a two-week holdout last week.
However, all of the first-round draft pick's snaps came at left tackle, Orlando Pace's position, a clear indication that for the immediate future, the Rams consider him a high-priced backup.
Coach Mike Martz named Barron the starting right tackle shortly after the team took him with the 19th overall pick, but demoted him in a minicamp after Barron struggled moving from left tackle his position in college to the right side.
Agent Drew Rosenhaus told the Titans he'd like to pursue a trade that would allow Billy Volek to be a starting quarterback in the NFL sooner rather than later.
That's not a subject the Titans are interested in talking about.
''To me, that wouldn't make sense based on you have to have two good quarterbacks to have a chance to win,'' coach Jeff Fisher said.
''We have two good quarterbacks. Why would you give one away unless you had a chance to get a better one? We're not necessarily into developing players for other people. We're developing players for our future.''
Rosenhaus visited the Titans to help conclude a one-year deal for safety Arturo Freeman. With Chicago already losing Rex Grossman to a broken ankle, the timing seemed right.
Rookie linebacker LeRoy Hill is expected to be out for 10 days after spraining his right knee in practice.
Hill was injured during a 9-on-7 drill during practice Sunday morning when he was caught in a pile. Coach Mike Holmgren initially classified the injury as a ''tweak,'' but Hill was seen the last two days wearing a large brace on the knee.
Defensive tackle Antonio Garay was signed to a two-year contract, and wide receiver Derek Lee and defensive lineman Jonathan Jackson were waived.
Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman returned to practice and said he should be OK to play in the home exhibition game Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
Merriman, the 12th pick in the NFL draft, missed a week's worth of practices with hamstring and toe injuries. He didn't travel to Green Bay for the exhibition opener last Thursday night. Bills
Running back Willis McGahee was held out of practice Monday night because of a sore right leg.
Referring to the injury as ''a tweak,'' coach Mike Mularkey said he sat out McGahee for precautionary reasons and didn't know whether he would practice Tuesday.
McGahee hurt his leg in the first quarter of Buffalo's 17-10 win at Indianapolis on Saturday. It happened when he was pulled down from behind by Colts' defensive lineman Larry Tripplett after a reception.
New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington threw in both practice sessions and said his surgically repaired right shoulder felt fine after its first big test of training camp.
Pennington, recovering from a torn right rotator cuff that caused him to miss minicamp and offseason training, had been throwing in just the afternoon practices during the first two weeks of camp.
''I hate missing practice and I'm happy that I can go through two practices in one day now,'' Pennington said.
Pennington said his shoulder felt good in both practices, but was especially happy he was able to throw with even more velocity in the afternoon session.
Receiver Jerry Porter doesn't plan to play in this weekend's preseason game in Houston while he recovers from a hamstring pull and instead has set Aug. 26 as his return date.
Porter has not practiced since Aug. 1 when he pulled up lame during a team scrimmage. Since then he has spent his time getting treatment and working with trainers away from the rest of his teammates. Porter did not play in Oakland's preseason opening loss to San Francisco, leaving the Raiders without their leading receiver from 2004.
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