x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Players cynical about NFL's motives on safety

Hines Ward has figured it out. The NFL's sudden concern for players' health is driven by a need for their union to sign off on an 18-game schedule.

Hines Ward has figured it out. The NFL's sudden concern for players' health is driven by a need for their union to sign off on an 18-game schedule. The Steelers' wide receiver called out the league for its contradictory stance, saying it "doesn't care about us anyway". He added: "If the league was so concerned about safety, why are you adding two more games?"

Said the Steelers' safety Ryan Clark: "It almost seems like the more flags we throw, the more fines we dish out, we can say we're protecting the game. Now, we can have 18 games because look how we're protecting [the players]."

Pittsburgh are feeling put upon lately, so the criticism might be dismissed as a circling of the wagons.

Linebacker James Harrison, a serial violator of the league's late- and-improper-hits policies, last week was assessed his fourth fine since mid-October. (His tab, still open, has reached US$125,000, or Dh460,000). Some of Harrison's teammates say they can no longer distinguish right from wrong in the league's eyes.

While on their soapbox, some claim quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is not being afforded safeguard treatment by officials as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

As injuries and fines mount during the season's stretch run, more players will question the league's motives as well as the desirability of extending the schedule.

Ward even warned that officials might start throwing flags excessively on borderline hits to stay on the good side of the evaluators.

Good luck, NFL execs, with all of this. You will need it.