Horrible 'holiday' week for NFL quarterbacks

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been wearing a protective boot in practice all week...

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been wearing a protective boot in practice all week with an apparent sprained foot. (KARL WALTER/Getty Images)

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:22 AM ET

TORONTO - The Pittsburgh Steelers may not have a leg to stand on in their war of words with the NFL.

And, now they might not have one either in their battle Sunday with the Baltimore Ravens.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been wearing a protective boot in practice all week. The club claims he has a sprained right foot.

However, newspaper reports out of Pittsburgh indicate the injury is actually more serious and that he has a broken metatarsal bone in the foot.

It has been a difficult Thanksgiving for quarterbacks starting with Vince Young starring in the role as the turkey. He hurt his hand, his reputation and his future. Derek Anderson blew a gasket during a press conference Sunday and spent the week apologizing for looking like a total prat. Friday the Raiders placed Bruce Gradkowski on injured reserve with a shoulder injury and filled his roster spot with J.T. O’Sullivan. In New England, Tom Brady has been limited in practice with shoulder and foot injuries. And don’t even get started on Brett Favre, who has more broken pieces than a 10-year-old Ford winter-beater.

Meantime, Steelers owner Art Rooney and head coach Mike Tomlin continue to pressure the league to lay off their club, claiming officials are targeting the team’s defence, which is built on intimidation.

The NFL argues that in light of long-term disabilities due to head trauma it has to protect players. Besides which, if Roethlisberger is seriously injured Tomlin may have bigger problems than the officials.

Roethlisberger was limited in practices and it seems likely he will be as big a target for the Ravens’ defence as James Harrison is for NFL officials.

Roethlisberger might as well stick a bulls-eye on that right foot. Steelers such as Ward Hines have been complaining that the league only wants to protect its quarterbacks and big offensive stars. Curiously, it is now the Steelers and Roethlisberger who might need that protection. The Ravens aren’t known as a charitable institution, particularly when Ray Lewis is in charge of the defence.

Roethlisberger has been wearing a reinforced shoe in practice that stabilizes the foot yet allows enough movement to play, but according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he has a heavy limp without the shoe and has been wearing a protective boot when off the field.

Gradkowski’s situation is interesting because he is in the final year of his contract. Jason Campbell moves back in as starter with Sullivan as a backup. But what happens next year? Coach Tom Cable seems to prefer Gradkowski but owner Al Davis likes Campbell, having once compared him to local icon Jim Plunkett.

What Davis wants, Davis gets. Gradkowski may have played his last game as a Raider. Favre will hobble on. Brady seems largely unaffected by his bumps and bruises. As for Roethlisberger, he stands to fight another day — but for how long may just be decided by the Ravens, and (whether the Steelers like it or not) how well the guys holding the flags can protect him.

No ill will

Former Vikings’ coach Brad Childress told the St. Paul Pioneer Express this week he never sensed a locker-room revolt. He said both Favre and Percy Harvin have telephoned since he was fired.

As for the fans screaming that he be fired during his final game? “You must say that they are passionate,” Childress said. “It’s interesting what they latch onto sometimes.”

Road kill

The Packers’ Clay Matthews could be whistling through the graveyard, otherwise known as the 49ers offensive line this weekend.

San Francisco is starting rookie Anthony Davis, who has looked more like a matador than a right tackle at times this year. Suffice to say it has been a difficult initiation into the pros.

The 49ers may also be starting Tony Wragge, normally a backup guard, at centre and they have lost Frank Gore, one of the best pass-protection running backs in the NFL.

It would be Wragge’s first start in four years.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Davis told the San Francisco Chronicle this week. Kind of makes you think that this weekend in Green Bay all roads lead to the quarterback.

Bear hug anyone?

Chester Taylor evidently isn’t big on group hugs.

He threw a chair at tackle Orlando Brown when the two were teammates in Baltimore. As a Viking he got into a fight with defensive end Erasmus James that ended up with Bryant McKinnie needing stitches.

Now he’s made himself comfortable with Chicago.

Taylor and fellow running back Kahlil Bell apparently don’t have each other on their Christmas lists. The two got into a verbal disagreement that escalated into fisticuffs at practice.

Taylor has played sparingly, averaging 2.6 yards a carry since coming from the Vikings.

Quick hits

Jets lost safety Jim Leonhard to a shin injury Friday ... Jacksonville will play without receiver Mike Sims Walker in a key division game ... The Patriots signed defensive end Eric Moore Friday, one day after the United Football League dropped its transfer fee to $25,000 from $150,000. Moore had been with the Florida Tuskers. The drop in the fee could see more players move between the leagues in the future ... Redskins’ tight end coach Jon Embree is in the running for the head coaching position with the University of Colorado. Mike Shanahan said he has assured the university that Embree wouldn’t have to finish out the Redskins season if given the job ... Patriots’ cornerback Jonathan Wilhite (hip), starting right guard Stephen Neal (shoulder) and defensive linemen Myron Pryor (back) and Mike Wright (neck/concussion) have been limited or missed practices this week. Without Pryor and Wright, the Patriots would be without their top two interior rushers for Monday’s game ... Cowboys’ Marion Barber is day-to-day with a calf injury. Dez Bryant (back) has been limited in practice but should play Sunday ... Packers coach Mike McCarthy is 5-14 in games decided by four points or fewer.


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