Hines Ward‘s apology to Ben Roethlisberger was extended to the rest of the Steelers on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh’s veteran receiver said at a team meeting that he regretted creating a distraction when he questioned why a concussion had kept Roethlisberger from playing against Baltimore on Sunday night, a game the struggling Steelers lost in overtime.
Ward already had apologized to Roethlisberger on Monday. Ward wasn’t aware a team doctor had advised the quarterback not to play due to post-concussion headaches that followed each of the team’s three practices last week.
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Roethlisberger hasn’t reported any headaches since Friday and practiced Wednesday for Sunday’s game against Oakland (3-8).
Ward is disappointed he spoke out of frustration in an NBC-TV interview taped Saturday night, not long after learning Roethlisberger wouldn’t play in an important game for last season’s Super Bowl champions.
“In hindsight, we’re never going to jeopardize a man’s health issues to play a game,” Ward said Wednesday. “A lot of people forget, Ben came from a motorcycle incident (in 2006) and still had a lot of head trauma, so we don’t want to … push him to play a game. I wasn’t trying to really not be concerned about his head injury. We were just frustrated we didn’t have our starting quarterback.”
Roethlisberger talked with Ward at length on Monday night and the two apparently put the incident behind them.
“You know what, he called me, we talked, we’re moving on and everything is fine,” Roethlisberger said.
Because Ward estimated his teammates were split 50-50 over whether Roethlisberger should play, coach Mike Tomlin and other players are being asked if the Steelers are a divided team.
“I apologized to the team for having to even answer questions about this. … That was never my intention, I didn’t want this to be a distraction,” Ward said. “I should have just took the time and took the emotions out of it and just gave the politically correct answer.”
Linebacker James Farrior said Ward, a team captain, didn’t need to apologize.
“I think it’s over with and it’s not going to be a distraction for this team. We’re just going to move forward,” he said. “We wanted to have all the people out there who could give us the best chance to win, and Hines was just upset.”
The Steelers (6-5) have lost three in a row to fall two games behind Cincinnati (8-3) in the AFC North race and jeopardize their chances of returning to the AFC playoffs for the seventh time in nine seasons.
“No, no, no,” Ward said, asked if the team’s unity was shaken. “I just think we need to get that taste of winning back. It’s frustrating when you lose to Kansas City, you come back and you know it’s going to be a tough game in Baltimore, and then not having your quarterback … In the course of losing three games in a row, we just need to get back on a winning track. Winning solves everything.”