Hines Ward(notes) and Santonio Holmes(notes) have now both spoken to the media about the fact that Ben Roethlisberger(notes) was on the bench this week with a concussion, and both fellows sounded at least borderline disrespectful to their quarterback.
Let's review. First, Hines:
"This game [Sunday's against Baltimore] is almost like a playoff game," Ward told NBC's Bob Costas. "It's almost a 'must' win. So, I can see some players or some teammates kind of questioning like, 'Well, it's just a concussion. I've played with concussions before. I would go out there and play.' So, it's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room ... I've been out there dinged up. The following week, [I] got right back out there."
"We would have liked for him to play. If he had the opportunity, he should have played for us, but he didn't. And we didn't get the job done."
I don't know what's more interesting: that Holmes and Ward would even tiptoe around a statement that sounds an awful lot like, "Roethlisberger could've played, and he should have played, and he let us down," or the oh-so-clear demonstration that NFL players believe that concussions are something that should be played through.
Starting with the former, it's just so un-Steeler-like. They never have these off-the-field things, like players calling one another out in the media. It's especially surprising in that it's Hines Ward doing the talking, and that it's the beloved franchise quarterback's toughness that's being questioned.
I'm not saying that Roethlisberger is some kind of Superman and his toughness can't be questioned. It's just weird that the people doing it are his star wide receivers. They're won Super Bowls together. Even if they did have problems with one another, you'd think they'd keep them quiet.
Mike Tomlin says he's not worried about it, and that Hines might have been misinformed about Roethlisberger not having medical clearance to play. If Tomlin says it's no big deal, I'll take his word for it, but I still think Ward and Holmes are way, way out of line here. No matter who made the decision to sit Roethlisberger, a coach, a doctor, or Roethlisberger himself, there's still no reason for either guy to open his mouth. You're talking about a teammate. The quarterback. If he says he's hurt, he's hurt, and that should be the end of it.
The second issue is less surprising, but more troubling. Obviously, there are a lot of guys out there who feel like a concussion is no big deal; that you can rub some dirt on it and just go play. That's the biggest challenge the NFL faces in dealing with the concussion issue: the mindset that if you don't play through it, you're being a pansy. It's existed forever in the NFL, and it's apparently still pretty prevalent.