"This game is almost like a playoff game. It's almost a must-win. I could see some players or teammates questioning, like 'It's just a concussion. I've played with a concussion before,'"
"It's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room: Should he play? Shouldn't he play? It's really hard to say. I've been out there dinged up; the following week, got right back out there. Ben practiced all week. He split time with Dennis Dixon(notes). And then to find out that he's still having some headaches and not playing and it came down to the doctors didn't feel that they were going to clear him or not – it's hard to say. Unless you're the person [himself]. … I've lied to a couple of doctors saying I'm straight, I feel good when I know that I'm not really straight."
It's nice to see that the NFL's new emphasis on head injuries went totally over Ward's head.
I've had a concussion, it's not much fun. And mine wasn't that bad of a concussion on the scale. Still, it was a couple of days before I was totally back to normal, and over a couple week before I was running around again. And that was taking a week off, not going through practices and studying lots of videotape each day.
There's a reason you're supposed to be very cautious with head injuries, they can have long lasting effects. Ask Al Toon, who battled vertigo and depression for years after being forced to retire due to concussions. Ask Ted Johnson, who has said he loses periods of time occasionally. Ask Mike Webster, who ended his life homeless and suffering from dementia. And there are many more where they came from. Concussions won't necessarily get better if you take time off in the offseason, each concussion does more damage and leaves you more vulnerable to future concussions. It's kind of like how a sprained ankle leaves you more susceptible to future ankle injuries...only if you needed your ankle to perform basic day-to-day functions like remembering to eat.
And now, you've got Ward questioning Roethlisberger's manhood for not lying to the team doctors and gutting it out. Nevermind that this is the Berger's 4th concussion, or that he's thinking of his future not to try and avoid a hip or knee surgery later in life, but to try and ensure he doesn't become a vegetable at age 45 or 50.
There is a huge difference between gutting through a sprained shoulder (like Matt Stafford did against Cleveland), and trying to push through a concussion (like Hines Ward wants). The shoulder will repair itself and won't interfere with brain operation later in life. The concussion very well might.
Even worse than Ward's comments, is all the talking heads defending his words. Look, I understand the athlete mentality. You're supposed to sacrifice everything for the team. Taking a cortisone shot to mask the pain of a sprained knee or busted shoulder is expected. And I'm not arguing that it shouldn't be. Part of the beauty of sports is becoming a part of something bigger than yourself and giving yourself over to that greater entity. That's all well and good, but head injuries are a different beast. Giving yourself over to the team should not include frying your brain. Walking with a limp or 2 replaced hips at 40 years old is one thing. Regressing to the mental acuity of a 4 year old is entirely different.
The NFL is finally getting this. Coaching staffs are coming around. It's time the players themselves catch up. Expecting a guy to run away from the trainer with a separated shoulder is one thing. Expecting a guy to lie to play through a concussion is idiotic and malicious.
Hines Ward, you are an idiot and an a******. You, and the unnamed 50% you referenced owe the Berger an apology. And Mike Tomlin, you should require this of your moronic wideout.