Hines Ward is the dirtiest player in the NFL, according to a Sports Illustrated poll of 296 players released this week.
The Steelers’ wide receiver, long considered the league’s best blocking wide receiver, received 11.6 percent of the vote. He was followed by Washington Football Team defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (6.0), Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter (6.0), Bengals safety Roy Williams (5.1) and Titans center Kevin Mawae (4.6). Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan (4.2), Rams guard Richie Incognito (3.7), Falcons guard Harvey Dahl (3.7), Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (3.7) and Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (3.2) rounded out the top 10.
Ward, 33, has a long history of physical play. Last October, he was fined $15,000 for hits in back-to-back weeks that weren’t penalized during the game. Later that month, Ward broke the jaw of Bengals rookie linebacker Keith Rivers with a surprise downfield block. The hit, which ended Rivers’ season, did not draw a flag. “That’s what he’s known for,” Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe said. “He’s a blind-side guy.”
Discussing his reputation with SI last year, Ward said, “It’s hard to sit there and tell everybody it’s a violent sport but tone it down a little. When I go across the middle, those guys aren’t going to tackle me softly and lay me down to the ground. That’s not football. I find it ironic that now you see a receiver delivering blows, and it’s an issue. But I haven’t changed. I’ve been doing it this way for 11 years.”
The poll was conducted in September and included some well-known names in the top 20: Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis (3.2 percent), Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman (2.3 percent) and Jets linebacker Bart Scott (2.3 percent). Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who retired last summer, received three votes.