Hines Ward, it is well-known by now, called out his quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on national television before the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens game last Sunday. His comments dropped jaws all over NFL fandom, and sent shock waves through the Steelers' locker room.
Roethlisberger, after practicing all week, cited headaches he was experiencing on Saturday (which were feared to be related to a concussion he suffered in the Steelers' previous game) as the reason he and team doctors decided he would not play in the game against the Baltimore Ravens, a game with serious divisional and playoff implications.
Said Ward, "This game is almost like a playoff game. It's almost a 'must' win. So, I can see some players or some teammates kind of questioning like, 'Well, it's just a concussion. I've played with concussions before. I would go out there and play.' So, it's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room. You know, should he play, shouldn't he play. It's really hard to say."
Ward, apparently, was expressing frustration other Steelers' players had expressed privately. Privately! In the locker room! The question is this: Why did the knucklehead receiver feel it necessary to take that frustration public? Why did he grab Big Ben and chunk him under the bus called Public Opinion? Why say any of that?
While listening, with jaw dropped, to Ward's comments, I felt this eerie sense of deja vu. Where had I heard such comments by a receiver regarding the team's quarterback before?
Wait! I remember. It was in Dallas. It came from the future hall of fame lips of one Terrell Owens. It was noise about secret meetings and covert game planning between quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
Boo hoo. They are conspiring to keep me from getting the ball.
The result was a reputed divided locker room. Players like Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton were sucked into the vortex (or cesspool, if you prefer) created by T.O. They reportedly called for, and received, a private audience with Jason Garrett to air out their concerns.
The Dallas Morning News had this gem of a quote from the "disenfranchised" Terrell Owens:
"I'm not jealous of Witten. I'm not jealous of nobody. I can take the approach that I got paid, so screw everything, but that's not me.
"I just want to win. I'm not trying to create a war of words with anybody. I thought we had a productive meeting, and I just talked to Jason about Tony reading the whole play because other people are open besides Witten."
Yes, and when Terrell Owens implied that his former teammate and quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers Jeff Garcia was gay, well, it was just because he is so passionate about winning. And when he was a Philadelphia Eagle suggesting that the team would be better with Brett Favre than Donovan McNabb, he was all about winning. Nothing more.
Terrell Owens never met a locker room he could not divide. He never saw a ship his loose lips and "I love me some me" attitude couldn't sink.
The Buffalo Bills are perfect for Owens. The team is a nonfactor. They can focus on getting T.O. his "touches," so he can celebrate meaningless touchdowns in meaningless games on a team going where he belongs: Nowhere.
Pittsburgh can keep Ward. Buffalo can have Owens. The Dallas Cowboys are just fine with Miles Austin, thank you very much.