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Ward: 'I Want To Be Here, I Want To Play'

The back-and-forth in the Hines Ward Saga stepped up quickly after a report yesterday suggesting Hines Ward will be released.

This time, it's Ward denying any knowledge of the alleged imminent release, as well as the team's denial of such a stance, as reported here by the Post-Gazette.

Ward wrote on his Facebook page, "I don't normally like to respond to rumors, but as I've said all along, I want to finish my career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And as I've already told the organization, I am willing to work with them to restructure my contract to make sure this happens."

P-G reporter Ed Bouchette quoted Ward from Feb. 2 saying "I just wanted to let them know I want to be here, I want to play. I have two years on my contact. I know I have to restructure, but, under the circumstances, I think I can still play football."

Ward has two years left on his contract, and his owed $4 million in each of those seasons. The question isn't whether Ward is willing to restructure the contract, it's the extent to which he'd be ok with that contract being restructured.

The team has said no decision on Ward has been made yet, and there are still 29 days until the start of the league's 2012 season. If Ward is to be released, it would be before that date. Ward has claimed a clause in his contract says the Steelers must make a decision on Ward being on their roster by March 1.

The Steelers are already reported to have saved $18 million against the salary cap by releasing CB Bryant McFadden and WR Arnaz Battle, and restructuring the deals of OLB LaMarr Woodley, CB Ike Taylor and ILB Lawrence Timmons. All three received extensions last season.

Brian McIntyre of Football Outsiders and editor of Mac's Football Blog reports Ward has a $4.61 million cap number in 2012. Releasing him would save the Steelers an additional $3.39 million against the cap.