Bucs' Ward goes from hero to zero

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:46 PM ET

Success may not have spoiled Derrick Ward. But it didn't do him any favors either.

One year after being the toast of Broadway and sipping Super Bowl champagne with the New York Giants, Ward is just another unemployed running back who might be on the downside of the proverbial hill.

He was cut yesterday by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, just 18 months after they signed him to a $17-million US deal for four years.

They talked of buying a Porsche. But one year after Ward collected 1,025 yards for the Giants, he managed just 419 with Tampa. Instead of that racy sports model, it turned out they got Fred Flintstone's ragtop instead.

His average yards per carry plunged from 5.6 in New York to 3.6 with the Bucs.

It didn't get any better this summer. He still talked a good game but never delivered. The Bucs evidently looked at his $3.25-million salary and decided he wasn't worth keeping past the season opener when the money would've become guaranteed.

The signs this day was coming have been lingering for weeks. When he showed up for training camp Bucs' head coach Raheem Morris questioned his dedication and expressed dissatisfaction with Ward's conditioning. "When you get a bit older in this league, especially as a running back, you have to realize that you need to come into camp at a lighter weight, not heavier," Morris said, in the third week of training camp. "I still have a lot of confidence in Derrick Ward that he'll be ready and in shape to help us."

But, when the coach is basically calling you a lard-can, it usually doesn't take long for the fat to hit the fire.

Ward went into a snit. He pretty much insinuated his coach was a liar when it came to his conditioning, telling reporters: "Ask my teammates -- I'm not huffing or puffing, I'm not asking to be taken out of games. My weight is good and I'm ready to go. If the first game of the season was this Sunday, I'd be ready."

It never showed on the field. He slipped to third on the depth chart behind Cadillac Williams and Kareem Huggins, an undrafted rookie out of Hofstra, who now appears destined to take his spot as the Bucs' featured back.

In the first exhibition against Miami, he led all Tampa Bay running backs in carries with 12, but finished last in yards with 20. Against Kansas City wasn't much better: five carries and 11 yards. Saturday against the Jaguars he had 19 yards on four carries.

Yesterday Morris announced the awkward dance they'd been playing was over and that Ward had been cut.

"We shook hands," he told the St. Petersburgh Times, "and wished each other well."

Turns out that might be the nicest thing they'd said to each other all year.

money talks

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill gave up almost $4 million yesterday but it may have saved his football career.

Hill has been embroiled in a controversial domestic violence case. The Seahawks, rightly, told him to get lost this summer until he got himself straightened out. The case has now been settled but his actions may have given the team an out on his $6-million contract. There is precedent for voiding deals on moral grounds; a judge having ordered former Lions' receiver Charles Rogers to repay $6.1 million.

Yesterday Hill avoided that possibility, agreeing to void his original deal in return for another that will pay him $2.125 million. His place on the team was already in doubt with the Seattle coaching staff frequently praising Hill's replacement, David Hawthorne, in preseason.

All of which raised questions about where Hill might fit in the team's longer-range plans.

cash for collapse

Two Dallas Cowboys employees will receive a combined $34 million after settling their lawsuits over injuries suffered in the collapse of the team's practice facility in 2009.

The Dallas Morning News reports that companies owned by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will pay $5 million each in cash and benefits to scout Rich Behm, paralyzed in the facility collapse, and special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, both of whom still work for the team.

Behm also settled with Summit Structures LLC and Cover-All Building Systems for about $19.5 million. DeCamillis, who suffered a broken neck, settled with the companies for about $4.5 million. Attorney Frank Branson, who represented both men, said that both his clients appreciate the way Jones has treated them since the incident.

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