Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Because Winning is Absolutely Everything

Hines Ward, wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is sometimes lauded as a tough, gritty player.  At other times, he is reputed to be one of the dirtiest players in the National Football League.

But apparently, he, perhaps along with other Steelers, is just a bad person:
The Steelers find themselves in the midst of a three-game losing streak and in the teeth of controversy Monday after WR Hines Ward suggested some in the Steelers' locker room might have wanted QB Ben Roethlisberger to play in the Week 12 loss to Baltimore in spite of a concussion.

Ward made the comments to NBC in an interview aired before the Steelers fell 20-17 in overtime to the Ravens with Dennis Dixon, not Roethlisberger, at quarterback.

"This game is almost like a playoff game," Ward said in a transcript released by NBC. "It's almost a must-win. I could see some players or teammates questioning, like 'It's just a concussion. I've played with a concussion before.' It's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room. Should he play? Shouldn't he play? It's really hard to say.

"I've been out there dinged up, the following week, got right back out there. Ben practiced all week. He split time with Dennis Dixon. And then to find out that he's still having some headaches and not playing and it came down to the doctors didn't feel that they were going to clear him or not. It's hard to say. Unless you're the person itself.

"I've lied to a couple of doctors saying I'm straight, I feel good when I know that I'm not really straight. I don't think guys really worry about the future while they're playing currently in the NFL. … Trust me, the players want to go out there because these games you don't get back. You're never going to get this Baltimore-Pittsburgh game back. This is a big game. Unfortunately, Ben can't play, so the 53 other guys have to rally the team and see if we can win one down here."
Of course, Ward eventually walked back from the comments:
After the game, Ward said that finding out just one day before the game that Roethlisberger was out was "frustrating." However, he indicated he wasn't being criticial toward Roethlisberger.

"You really don't want to mess around with concussions," Ward said. "Guys have concussions and still play. But you have to look at the whole big picture. When the health comes into question, you got to look at the long-term effect. When I said that, I really wasn't saying (it) in a negative towards Ben. You have to be concerned about it because we don't know what the future may hold considering all the research on concussions. I wish we would have had him out there. But we didn't, and we fell short."
Ward's obvious realization of what he said does not absolve him of having said in the first place.  Regardless of the whether or not he was one of the players that considered Roethlisberger's injury "just a concussion", by spreading such a noxious opinion, he is responsible for its implications.  The NFL has not done enough to protect players from the effects of concussions, to tragic results.  Ward, and anyone holding this opinion of Roethlisberger's injury, need to gain some perspective.

Thankfully, Steelers' head coach Mike Tomlin had a better understanding of the gravity of the situation.  Although Roethlisberger dressed for the game, Tomlin told the crew of Monday Night Football that the quarterback would only play if the two other quarterbacks got injured - and even then all he would do was hand the ball off, never being exposed to further injury (and likely ensuring a Pittsburgh loss).

He understands the relative importance of a football game compared to a young man's health.  Nothing.

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