View Full Version : Ward Voices Conflict Between Team Goals and Player Safety

11-30-2009, 06:58 PM
Ward Voices Conflict Between Team Goals and Player Safety

BALTIMORE — In the visitors’ locker room after the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 20-17 overtime loss to the Ravens on Sunday, receiver Hines Ward tried repeatedly to explain his stance on the absence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had shown postconcussion symptoms earlier in the week.

The more he talked, the more conflicted he sounded.

“It’s tough,” Ward said. “You don’t want to jeopardize your future. It’s a tossup. You either play and jeopardize your future or you sit out and worry about the big picture.”

Ward did not back down from his comments, which were made to NBC Saturday and broadcast Sunday. In them he said the Steelers’ locker room was split 50-50 on whether Roethlisberger should play, adding that, “these games, you don’t get back.”

He insisted that he was not questioning the toughness of his quarterback, that he was not starting a “war of words” and that his comments would not divide the locker room of a team clinging to the periphery of the playoff race at 6-5.

Ward, who said he had lied to doctors and played with concussions, also said he understood the National Football League’s increased awareness of head injuries. But he kept returning to the same point.

“We needed him out there,” Ward said of Roethlisberger. “We wanted him out there. This is the biggest game of the year. We lost and we kind of dug ourselves a hole. Me being a competitor, I just wish we would’ve had all our weapons out there. It’s frustrating.”

Toughness is an appreciated commodity in the N.F.L., where players like to refer to the injury rate as 100 percent and where they are applauded for taking pain-killing injections before games in order to play.

In a league grappling more than ever with concussions, the Steelers’ handling of Roethlisberger’s latest head injury and Ward’s reaction to it highlight an issue the N.F.L. faces moving forward. How can it impress on players the danger repeated concussions pose to their health and get them back out on the field? Even Roethlisberger wanted to play Sunday. He had been cleared earlier in the week, despite sustaining the fourth concussion of his career last week against Kansas City.

The team neurosurgeon recommended Saturday that Roethlisberger sit against the Ravens because he was getting headaches after exercising, a symptom of postconcussion syndrome. Roethlisberger lobbied Coach Mike Tomlin one last time Saturday night. He wanted to play as much as Ward wanted him to.

The Steelers chose to err on the side of caution, as did Arizona, which sat Kurt Warner, Philadelphia (Brian Westbrook) and Washington (Clinton Portis). This caution was more evidence that awareness of the problem has been heightened leaguewide.

The N.F.L. recently introduced initiatives requiring teams to get medical evaluations by independent doctors before players are allowed to return to games after sustaining head injuries.

Fox reported Sunday that Commissioner Roger Goodell would send all teams a memo this week expanding on when to remove a player with a head injury or a concussion. Under current rules, players can return to a game if they are without symptoms and cleared by the team doctor.

The Steelers took the cautious route this week, but because Tomlin did not have time to train an emergency backup quarterback, Roethlisberger served in that capacity against the Ravens. Had the other two quarterbacks in front of him gotten hurt — including the starter, Dennis Dixon — Roethlisberger would have handed off every play, Tomlin said. Because Tomlin was busy preparing Dixon to make his first N.F.L. start, he said he did not have time to inform the team fully of Roethlisberger’s status.

Ward said he was upset that the Steelers found out Saturday that Dixon would start after practicing most of the week with Roethlisberger as the starter. He called it shocking.

When told of Ward’s comments, Tomlin said his receiver was uninformed.

Asked if he questioned Roethlisberger’s toughness, or if he felt Ward’s comments would cause a problem in the locker room, Tomlin answered, “Absolutely not,” on both counts.

But Ward was stuck in the same refrain, about how he had lied to doctors and played with concussions, and survived. Again, Ward insisted, he was not questioning anybody’s toughness, not judging another man. Here was Ward, wrestling with concussions, debating no one except himself.

11-30-2009, 10:05 PM
I tell you what...I love the attitude of guys like Ward. I love the toughness. They are out there playing their asses off, busting each other up...all for us, the fans.

However...at the end of the day, it's just not worth it to risk your long-term health, or your LIFE, for this game.

Even if the doctors completely cleared Ben, but he said he didn't feel right about playing, I would support him 100%.

11-30-2009, 10:14 PM
Don't ever remember players' right to question someone else's toughness under Cowher. Makes me think Ward was a plant by Tomlin.

11-30-2009, 10:18 PM
Enough. I'm sick of this. I'm sick of the media trying to flush out controversy. This is not what our team is, for very good reason.

If anyone on the Pittsburgh is pissed off (and I believe Tomlin will be encouraging this) then they better be taking it out on the field next Sunday. Not eachother.

tony hipchest
11-30-2009, 10:36 PM
his 50-50 comment was taken totally out of context.

Don't ever remember players' right to question someone else's toughness under Cowher. Makes me think Ward was a plant by Tomlin.

:wtf: hibiscus? mary jane? wtf????

anyone seen brian westbrook lately?

11-30-2009, 10:37 PM
Mountain, molehill. :yawn: