Hines Ward Isn't Tough As Nails, Nails Are Tough As Hines Ward

PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 14: Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks off of the field with help from the training staff after injuring himself during the game against the New England Patriots on November 14, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

After spending way too much time talking about kickers, let’s talk about real athletes.

With the exception of the sissies who boot the pigskin, football players are the toughest athletes in all of sports.   Let’s use concussions for example. Justin Morneau was concussed in July and couldn’t return for his team’s playoff run in mid-October.  Of course, everybody knows baseball players are a soft bunch of overpaid ball-scratchers.  Hockey players are tough but Pittsburgh fans may remember last season when Matt Cooke wiped out the Bruins’ Marc Savard with a beautiful (and clean) body check.  Savard missed almost two months of action and was still cry-babying about post-concussion “symptoms” this season.

Meanwhile, football players who are concussed almost always return a week later.  Except Hines Ward.  He wanted to return in the same game.

Yes, in Mike Tomlin‘s weekly pack of lies/press conference, admitted Hines suffered a concussion in that debacle against the Patriots.  As I surmised, they told him it was a “neck sprain” just to placate the proud and stubborn receiver.  I applaud the Pittsburgh Steelers for doing right by their players.

Hines is, without a doubt, one of the toughest men to ever wear the Black and Gold. For those of you who know your Steelers history, that’s saying a lot.  This man sprained his MCL in the AFC Championship game, an injury which would shelve an ordinary player for almost an entire season, and returned to play just two weeks later.  Given the physical manner in which he plays, I’m sure Hines has had his share of injuries over the years but he’s never whines, complained, or made excuses like our Drama Queen behind center.

I empathize with people who’ve suffered a concussion.  Mostly because I have personal experience with that particular issue.  While attending CMU, I was once concussed in an intra-mural floor hockey game gone horribly awry.  Don’t think I’ve forgotten your goonish behavior, Tina DiCapula.

However, I do find the NFL’s current concussion-craze to be a bit overzealous.  Mike Tomlin’s comment that, “Sometimes, you’ve got to protect the extreme competitors from themselves, and Hines is that.  We love and respect him for that, but we had to act in his best interests.” bothers me.  These are grown men who should be permitted to make their own choices. Doctors don’t strap you down”in your best interests” and stick needles in your ass without your consent.  Why should the NFL, Tomlin, or anybody else force Hines out of a game by lying to him?

On the flip side, Hines also said some things which worry me.   I’ve always felt Hines was one of the smartest players on the team, perhaps a future Senator or Congressman.  However, when he says, “Until I get a defined answer with all of the stats of guys having injuries post-career, I won’t worry about it.” that worries me. Um, talk to Merril Hoge about the effects of repeated concussions.  Or talk to Mike Webster and Justin Strzelczyk.

Oh wait, you can’t…  ‘Cause they’re dead.

The good news is Hines has passed all his post-concussion tests and is cleared to play on Sunday.  Although his cavalier attitude suggests there is still a ways to go as far as educating players on the dangers of concussions.  Although, really, the Ginger Dictator has nobody to blame but himself if players don’t take the issue seriously.  After all, this putz drops the hammer on James Harrison for playing clean hard football but doesn’t fine absolutely filthy dirty players like Kurt Coleman (who knocked out Austin Collie) or James Sanders (who cheapshoted Hines).  Until there is a clear and defined set of rules for all concerned, these situations are going to continue to occur.  Let’s just hope everybody gets on board before it’s too late.

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