Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward lashed out Wednesday at the NFL for what he calls its hypocritical stance on player safety, arguing the league recently toughened its stance only because it wants to expand to an 18-game season.
Ward said there is considerable confusion among players about which hits are legal and which aren't since the league stepped up its policing of dangerous hits. Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been fined $125,000 for four hits since mid-October, two of which weren't penalized.
"They league doesn't care about us anyway," said Ward, a 13-year veteran and the leading receiver in Steelers history. "They don't care about the safety of the game. If the league was so concerned about the safety, why are you adding two more games on? You talk about you don't want players to drink … and all you see is beer commercials. You don't want us to gamble, but then there are [NFL-endorsed lottery scratch-off games]."
The NFL is pushing for an expanded season during ongoing labor negotiations with the players union.
"It almost seems like the more flags we throw, the more fines we dish out, we can say we're protecting the game," Steelers safety Ryan Clark said, reflecting his opinion of the league's stance. "Now, we can have 18 games because look how we're protecting [the players]."
Ward also predicted a team will lose a game — possibly in the playoffs — because an official makes an incorrect call out of fear of being disciplined by the league for not adhering to its new policy.
"It's going to change the outcome; somebody's going to lose a game because of it," Ward said. "It's going to be a huge play in a playoff game, somebody's going to hit a quarterback or do something and the referee is going to be too scared to call it. So he's going to call it anyway so he can save his tail. He [the player] may not even get fined or not, but it will come down to the outcome of a ballgame."
Steelers linebacker James Farrior said NFL Players Assn. chief DeMaurice Smith hasn't properly supported players on the issue.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs took the unusual stance of agreeing with the rival Steelers during a conference call with Pittsburgh reporters.
"The league has their favorites," Suggs said. "One being in Indy [ Peyton Manning] and one being with that team up north [New England's Tom Brady]. Besides those two, everybody is fair game. Like I always said, Carson Palmer got his knee hurt in 2005, but there was no rule made. Then Tom Brady got hit in the knee and all of a sudden there is a rule and possible suspensions, excessive fines. It's just getting ridiculous."
Anderson apologizes for rant
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson has apologized for his Monday night postgame tirade.
"My mom and dad didn't raise me to act like that in times of adversity," he said.
The quarterback's rant came after a series of questions from a reporter about why Anderson was smiling with teammate Deuce Lutui on the sidelines while the Cardinals were trailing by 18 points late in the game. The brief clip of the two grinning had been shown during the Monday night telecast.
Anderson said after the game that it was no one's business what he and Lutui were talking about. As the reporter persisted, Anderson lost his temper and shouted about how he had put his "freaking heart and soul" into the team and that there was nothing funny about it.
He was low-key and contrite as he opened his weekly news conference Wednesday.
"Let's try to do this in a manner that doesn't end up all over the YouTube, if we can," he said. " … Obviously, I was very frustrated by what had happened during the game, and I let my emotions get away from me."
The blowup came after the Cardinals lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 27-6, their seventh consecutive defeat.
"I've been through some rough times in football," Anderson said, "but I think it obviously was one of the most frustrating times for me, a game that I felt like going in that we were very prepared for. I had a very good week of practice, like I said, and to lay an egg on national television was not only frustrating for me, but frustrating to every one of the guys that's out here every single day and sees what we're capable of doing."
Favre has no idea of investigation's status
The investigation into allegations that Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre sent a game-day hostess inappropriate text messages and photos while both worked for the New York Jets in 2008 has dragged on for two months.
An NFL spokesman said that the investigation is continuing and Favre said he has not been summoned by the league for another meeting and has no idea when it will reach a conclusion.
"To be honest with you, I haven't even thought about it," Favre said. "My focus is on this team, which is tough enough as it is. I'm not concerned about that [investigation]."
Roethlisberger is expected to play