Report: Ward rips NFL on concussions
For the second time this season, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward lashed out at the NFL over player safety.
In an interview with GQ published Tuesday, Ward accused the NFL of being hypocritical by trying to curb helmet-to-helmet hits while at the same time trying to convince the players to agree to add two games to the regular season.
"To say the league really cares? They don't give a (bleep) about concussions," the 13-year veteran said. "And now they want to add on two extra games? Are you kidding? Come on, let's be real."
The new NFL rules require a player to pass a battery of tests and be cleared by an independent doctor before returning from a concussion. But the four-time Pro Bowler said that rule only makes players more likely to hide their symptoms.
"Now that these new guidelines are in place, you'll see more and more guys lying to doctors to stay on the field," Ward said.
"Contracts aren't guaranteed. If a guy's contract is coming up and he gets his bell rung — and if he has a concussion, he'll have to leave the game and maybe miss another one — trust me, he ain't tellin' nobody."
The 34-year-old, who is getting set to play in his third Super Bowl, also criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for not mandating that players wear new helmets that are supposed to reduce the risk of a concussion.
Ward suffered a concussion earlier this season on a helmet-to-helmet hit against the Patriots.
Ward's sentiment was echoed by Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who also doubted whether the NFL was sincerely concerned about the players' safety.
"Quit pretending to be the flag-bearers for our health care and safety when you're telling us in the next sentence that we need to go to 18 games. That doesn't cut it. Obviously you don't give a (bleep) about our health and safety," Fujita said.
Other players interviewed by GQ mostly agreed that the NFL's crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits and hits on "defenseless" players will change how the game is played.
"(Steelers linebacker) James Harrison got fined $75,000. That is a lot of money, man. A lot. It's just crazy," Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said.
"Losing that kind of money is just unjustifiable. So yes, guys will change. It's definitely going to change the way the game is played."
Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber said he disputes the very notion that a player on the field would be labeled as defenseless.
"At the time, I didn't understand how you could have a defenseless player on a football field," said Barber. "It's an oxymoron. And yet defensive players are never considered defenseless, even when (offensive players) go for our knees."