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TAMPA -- You can have your Larry Fitzgerald and his acrobatics. Keep your Anquan Boldin and his sideline tantrums. For my money, the best receiver on the field this Sunday will be Hines Ward.
Ward, who returned to practice Thursday after dealing with sprained MCL in his right knee, will be ready to go on gameday and that makes him in the odds-on favorite to win another Super Bowl MVP in my sportsbook, at least.
Am I saying that Ward is a better pure receiver that Fitzgerald or Boldin? No. If this was a mid-September game, Ward might be the third- or fourth-best wideout on the field; but on Super Bowl Sunday, I'll take Ward and it's not even close.
I know what you're thinking: Ward is injured and hasn't had a 100-yard game since the second-to-last game of the season, compiling only 195 yards in his last three games before the Super Bowl.
Well, four years ago, Ward was injured (shoulder) and hadn't had a 100-yard game since the second-to-last game of the season ... and only had 177 yards in his last four games before the Super Bowl. That didn't matter, as he went on to win Super Bowl XL MVP with a 123-yard, one-TD performance against the Seahawks.
That's the type of player is and that's the type of performance the Steelers can expect from him on Sunday. There may be players that are bigger, faster and stronger than Ward, but there are few that are as good as him in this spot. He's a big-time player who will do whatever he needs to do, even if that makes him a dirty player or a cheap-shot artist in the eyes of his opponents.
He's the kind of player you love when he's on your team and hate when you play against him. Then again, you can say the same thing about all great players that shine brightest in the biggest games.
Check SI.com's Super Blog regularly for more dispatches from Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.