I realize that as a fanbase we want our heroes to "gut it out" whenever they can, especially when the playoffs are on the line.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are teetering and needed this game to stay at the top of the wildcard race. So when one is hopeful Big Ben can play, it is understandable. However, the severity of a concussion is not a matter to be glossed over.
I appreciate Hines Ward as a feisty tough player. As a non-Steeler fan, I really don’t see him as a Bill Romanowski (or even Albert Haynesworth) when it comes to cheap shots and "dirty" play, despite his being voted as such.
However, his quotes in a pregame interview were out of line and his tough guy image/approach may have stepped a bit far this go around.
In a pregame interview with Bob Costas, here are some of the things Ward stated (a little long but I wanted to make sure "out of context" was not as easily applied):
"This game is almost like a playoff game. 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,'" Ward said to Costas, in an interview taped Saturday at the team's Suburban-Baltimore hotel as a prelude to the Steelers-Ravens game.
"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 [himself]…I've lied to a couple of doctors saying I'm straight, I feel good when I know that I'm not really straight."
It is great to want to be a competitor and win. Yet I can’t help but feel that the comments were a little disingenuous. It's not surprising that he thinks that way, but that is not laundry that should be aired out in an interview. It undermines a quarterback who was attempting to play and held back by doctor clearance. He did not pull himself.
Not one of the three quarterbacks suffering concussions last week played in this weekend’s games. They are even discussing the possibility of barring a quarterback from entering the following week’s game after a concussion-type injury.
I realize Hines Ward is a competitor and his team is about two games behind where they likely expected to be at the outset of the season. Yet why put undue pressure in the locker room, and risk a division in the locker room, just when they need to band together and fight for a wildcard berth?
Public opinion is also hinged on quotables. He risks half the Steeler fan base by blaming Ben for this loss should they fall just shy of the playoffs, and also risks pitting another big piece of Pittsburgh against himself for potentially divisive comments.
Yes, many players go out and lie about injuries, and some tough it out to try and give their team what they need. Many players also gut it out, get hurt worse, and miss more games than if they would have if they sat when they originally needed to.
One would think you would (at least in the court of public opinion) try and support the guy who has led you to multiple Super Bowls and wish him a speedy recovery. I would certainly prefer that to making the wildcard, then trying to get by without Big Ben as he stares woozily from the sidelines.