Jets DBs riled up over Hines Ward

Updated: January 23, 2011, 11:50 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Antonio Cromartie knows the perfect way to stop Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward from throwing a blindside block Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

"Just tell [him] if he do it again you're gonna kick his ass," Cromartie said Friday afternoon.

Ward has developed a reputation because of his penchant for hitting opponents who aren't looking in his direction. Some Jets on Friday called his play "dirty" and "cheap."

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said the Jets refer to Ward as "the toughest player in the league, when no one's looking."

[+] EnlargeHines Ward
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesBlocking when meeting your opponent face to face? No problem. But some Jets say Hines Ward drills foes when they aren't looking.

"We're going to deal with him early so he knows what type of game it's going to be, and that none of that stuff is being tolerated," Jets safety James Ihedigbo said.

Like a tone-setting hit?

"Hell yeah," the safety said.

Safety Eric Smith hesitated to say what would happen if Ward serves up any cheap shots on Sunday. Why? Because Smith is worried such words might incur a fine from the league.

"If I finish what I said and then do what I planned on doing, I'm going to get fined," Smith said.

Smith said Ward took some cheap shots at the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday in the Steelers' divisional round victory.

"We saw some of those plays, like in the Ravens game, he's out there hitting Dawan Landry in the back, he came across and hit Ray Lewis in the back," Smith said. "Ed Reed was 30 yards downfield and he's going down and hitting him. It's just unnecessary things like that that make you mad as a defender."

Prior to the 2009 season, the NFL implemented a rule stating that a 15-yard penalty would be assessed if a player delivers a blindside block to the head of a defender using his helmet, forearm or shoulder. The new statute was commonly referred to as the "Hines Ward Rule."

"If you hit a guy like that, when he's looking at you and it's face to face then I'll be like, 'Hey, he's a pretty tough player,'" Ihedigbo said. "But if you hit someone in their back when they're pursuing a play or they're not even looking, that's a cheap shot."

The Jets coaching staff put together a video of Ward's hits prior to the Week 15 road win over the Steelers to alert defensive players.

"That makes you mad when you see stuff like that," Smith said.

Cromartie said that he doesn't really care if Ward hits opponents with blindside blocks -- as long as he can hit back.

"I really don't care. You smash him in the mouth, he's going to smash back, whatever," Cromartie said. "Does he do it while you're not looking? Yeah, he does. But who doesn't?"

The Jets corner allowed that Ward's hits "can be" dirty. When such hits occur, Cromartie suggests that players "grab [him] by the throat and choke [him]."

Friday evening on SNY's "Loud Mouths," Cromartie said Ward is not "man enough" to hit players while they are looking.

At least one Jet respects Ward: Rex Ryan. During Ryan's 10-year tenure on the Ravens' coaching staff, he accounted for Ward and the Steelers in game plans, so he is well-aware of Ward's reputation.

"He'll look for you now. If he can hit you, he's going to. And I've seen him knock out a ton of guys before," Ryan said. "Let's face it, they changed a rule [for] Hines Ward about hitting a defenseless player and all that kind of stuff.

"But, quite honestly, he's just finishing plays and there was no rule [before]. So he went out and he plays hard and he plays to the whistle. And that's the kind of guy he is. I respect the heck out of Hines Ward."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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