By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — James Farrior called the NFL’s management team the wild, wild west, while Hines Ward said that group was a bunch of hypocrites.
These latest criticisms by Pittsburgh Steelers players come as no surprise since they follow another league fine for teammate James Harrison. After being penalized for roughing Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, actually for using the crown of his helmet on the hit, he was fined $25,000. He now has been fined $125,000 this season.
“I don’t know if the league is wrong in every instance, but they really started off bad when they fined him $75,000,” Farrior said Wednesday. “I don’t know how they got to that amount and it got that high, because we all got a list of the fines — first and second instances — but I don’t believe $75,000 was on that paper.
“I think it’s eventually going to cost us a game or getting him suspended, so nothing good can come out of this for us. (So, players) have to talk about it. We can’t just keep sitting here and taking it. We all have to say something and not keep letting them bend us over and give it to us. I don’t know if the labor dispute is the reason. I haven’t looked at that angle yet.
“But where’s Maurice Smith in all of this,” Farrior added, referring to the Executive Director of the NFL Players Association. “I haven’t heard from him one time. We’re on our own right now. As I’ve said earlier, it’s the wild, wild west. There’s no type of regulation going on. It’s just one guy making all the rules and doling out the fines.”
Some three decades ago, Steelers Hall of Famer Jack Lambert called for the league to put dresses on all the quarterbacks. Farrior believed the NFL should just make a statement to not hit those players that hard.
“They want those guys on the field at all times, and that’s what it boils down to,” Farrior said. “They make all the money, and they want to protect them at all costs. What I want to know is that we’re the only team doing this? Is James Harrison the only guy who’s getting penalized and getting fined?
“I know it has to be happening somewhere else, but it seems like we’re the only team that’s getting all the attention. (Also), I guess they’re saying it’s OK to fight sometimes, and you’ll just get a fine. You can do a whole lot of stuff, but you better not hit that quarterback hard.”
Ward knows that there’s nothing the Steelers can do to get Harrison some money back, especially since appeals appear to fall on deaf ears. But he was certain that nobody else has been fined like Harrison during his 13 NFL seasons.
“One time, the refs throw a flag and there’s no fine, but another time they don’t throw a flag and there’s a fine,” Ward said. “So, we don’t know what the league wants, but they’re going to keep taking money out of our pockets, so we’ll just keep writing it off as a deduction on our taxes. (And) it’s going to change an outcome. Somebody’s going to lose a game because of it.
“There’s going to be a huge play in a playoff game, and somebody’s going to hit a quarterback or do something, and the referee will be too scared to call it. But he’s going to call it anyway, so he can save his tail. He might not even get fined, but it’s going to come down to changing an outcome. It’s football. I don’t care what you do, it’s always going to be a physical game.
“If a quarterback gets hit or anything,” Ward added, “if you can’t hit them in the head or knees, where can you hit them? I keep seeing our quarterback get hit, and nothing is called. We’ll take 15 yards now and then, but I’m not going to keep barking up the same tree as far as complaining. The league doesn’t care about us anyway. They’re going to take our money, no matter what.”
Ward joked that maybe Harrison can do a couple autograph signings to make some money back in the offseason. Then, he continued to rail on the league.
“They say they’re concerned about the safety of the game,” Ward said, “but if they do care then why are they adding two games? They can say that they’re worried about concussions, but why don’t they make these new helmets mandated all over the league so each player can have that. They collect money from every company that pays them.
“Now, we have three different helmets. … They’re hypocrites. They talk about safety, but they’re adding on two games. You talk about not wanting players to drink, but our major endorser (sponsor) is Coors Light. You say that you don’t want us to gamble, but you have spreads and betting lines listed. So, we just have to play football, and whatever the NFL decides to do we’re going to do it.”