If the Bears defensive backs have that feeling like they wish their heads were on swivels come Sunday afternoon, they can thank their own wide receivers coach.
It was Darryl Drake who helped mold Ward into the player he is today, one of the most ferocious downfield blockers the league has known for the last two decades, while at Georgia.
"The player you see out on the field today has a lot to do with coach Drake,'' Ward told the Sun-Times. "He motivated me. I got recruited as a quarterback and I didn't know anything about wideout. I played two years under him and all and all, he taught me the game itself, how to block, how to be a complete player and I owe it all to him.''
The two remain close and have already talked about the Bears' meeting with Pittsburgh at Soldier Field.
"When I got him,'' Drake said. "He was a 163-pound wide receiver. That kid could have been [Troy] Polamalu too. One of the best high school safeties I've ever seen.''
The defensive backs know they need to be on the lookout. Just because Ward has a rule named after himself now--the Hines Ward rule--doesn't mean he's not going to be seeking to knock someone sideways. The NFL has cracked down on blindside blocks, the kind he specializes in. Now, a blindside block with the helmet, forearm or shoulder in the head or neck area of the defender is a penalty and will likely draw a fine.
``You're going to be aware of someone when they make rules out there for him,'' said cornerback Zack Bowman, who will be making his first career start. ``He can lay some hits. Look at what happened to Keith Rivers last year. You always have to respect a guy like Hines Ward. He can catch, run good routes, and he can also block. You always have to respect a guy like that.''
When Lovie Smith wants to establish whether or not a team has toughness, that is the area he looks at.
``I think you can tell two things about a football team, a lot of times, if it is really a tough team when your receivers block and your cornerbacks tackle,'' said Smith, a former defensive back. ``Just looking at their receivers and the blocks that Hines Ward has gotten in his career, as a football lover, you have to like that. As a competitor, on the other side of the ball, you want to play against a guy like that that you know is ready to mix it up and be physical.
"We're not warning our guys on anything. We play physical football too.''