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.
BRONCOS: 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.
DOLPHINS: 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.