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Ward is back on board

Steeler is talked out of his holdout

Wide receiver Hines Ward ended his 15-day holdout and reported to the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday, 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 Bowler 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," said Ward, less than an hour after showing up to watch the Steelers host the Eagles in an exhibition game. ''If your coach doesn't have confidence in you as a ballplayer, maybe you need to part ways."

Ward, poised to become the leading receiver in team history this season, became the Steelers' 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. But the Steelers also kept their promise of not negotiating with a player under contract who is not in camp.

Ward, 29, has one year remaining on a contract worth $1.66 million.

Ward watched the Steelers hold off the Eagles, 38-31, and was among the first players off the bench to congratulate Ike Taylor after his 100-yard kickoff return early in the second quarter gave Pittsburgh a 21-7 lead. The Steelers also scored on a 10-yard interception return by Willie Williams and Ricardo Colclough's 66-yard punt return.

Brown joins Miami

Following a three-week holdout and an overnight stay in the Atlanta airport because of bad weather, first-round draft pick Ronnie Brown finally joined the Dolphins. The former Auburn running back, taken second overall, took the practice field after signing a five-year, $34 million contract that included about $20 million guaranteed. ''He has a pretty good understanding of what we're doing," coach Nick Saban said. ''It's just going to take some time to get him into football shape." Saban also announced that veteran Gus Frerotte has moved ahead of A.J. Feeley in the quarterback competition and will start Saturday's exhibition game at Pittsburgh after working with the first unit this week . . . The Eagles confirmed an ESPN report that they sent wide receiver Terrell Owens a letter detailing his alleged misdeeds during his 10 days at training camp. An Eagles source said the letter, sent over the weekend, was just one in a series the team has addressed to Owens during his tenure. What the team is essentially doing is putting together evidence in case it decides to file a grievance against Owens for violating the terms of the seven-year contract worth just under $49 million that he signed before last season . . . Quarterback Chad Pennington threw in both of the Jets' practice sessions and said his surgically repaired right shoulder felt fine after its first big test of camp. He expects to start Friday's exhibition against the Vikings . . . Rex Grossman's ankle surgery ''went well," though Bears GM Jerry Angelo isn't sure when the quarterback will return. The team initially said Grossman would miss three to four months, but Angelo said the Bears will reassess after the team medical staff meets today . . . Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams was arrested and charged with drunken driving after a traffic stop early yesterday just north of Baltimore. Sams was clocked going 89 miles per hour in a 55-m.p.h. zone, and after further investigation, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, negligent driving, and speeding . . . Chiefs defensive tackle Junior Siavii and teammate Greg Wesley were arrested after allegedly getting into a drunken confrontation with police in a downtown Minneapolis hotel early Sunday. The players were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and may face misdemeanor charges.

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