NFL players take verbal shots at the league

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:59 PM ET

TORONTO - It is where Hollywood meets Jockdom and the television lights shine on all things sweetness and light.

Evidently not everybody got the memo.

As a simmering labour dispute (one in which the league has the players by the shrimp cocktails some might suggest) hangs like a cloud over ice-encrusted Dallas, Hines Ward called out the league for being two-faced. And that was before he got really steamed and was still being polite.

Scott Fujita, Cleveland linebacker, says the league’s dubbing Pittsburgh Steeler James Harrison’s hits illegal — then selling video of those plays on its website — is hypocritical.

Oh, then there’s Patriots’ linebacker Vince Wilfork, who says the league preaches safety one day, then proposes something “stupid” like its demand for an 18-game schedule.

Even CBS, one of the NFL’s broadcasting partners, isn’t playing nice. Tuesday it notified the players’ association that it wouldn’t run their anti-lockout commercial.

Not to mention, the weather outside is frightful. But does this mean everybody’s got to go around trying to roast someone’s chestnuts?

Media Day had hardly started Tuesday when Ward jumped all over Roger Goodell’s party invitation.

“They’re so hypocritical sometimes,” Hines said of the league’s crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits. “They came out with these new helmets that are supposed to stop concussions. If they care so much about our safety, why don’t they mandate that we wear the new ones? If they’re so worried about what concussions will do to us after our careers, then guarantee our insurance for life. And if you’re going to fine me for a hit, let the money go to veteran guys to help with their medical issues.”

A league study shows the number of players injured this season increased to 63% compared to a 2002-09 average of 59%.

But Fujita told Yahoo Sports that players resent the mixed messages from league offices about concern for player safety.

“Obviously you don’t give a sh-t about our health and safety. Remember that photo of Harrison making a hit on (Browns receiver Mohamed) Massaquoi? They fined him $75,000 for that — and at the same time, they were selling it on NFL.com for $24.99. They kept it there until someone shamed them into taking it down. I was so pissed off by the hypocrisy of it all. I was walking around the locker room talking sh-t, and others were doing the same thing.”

The players have a point. Telling them not to do something; then glorifying and promoting that very thing, seems incongruous and insincere.

Speaking of food for thought. Anybody want a little weinie on stick? The players are almost unanimous in opposition to Goodell and the owners’ desire to increase the schedule to 18 games.

“Eighteen games turns into 20 games because the two pre-season games you have to play your veterans and your starters. So that’s 20 games,” Wilfork told the Boston Herald. “It’s a stupid thing. It’s just too stupid to be adding games.”

Wilfork’s argument is that more players will be exposed to injury before even getting to the Super Bowl by adding Games 17 and 18. “You talk about concussions now with a 16-game season, you just think about what would happen with 18 games ... your key players missing because they can’t make it through,” Wilfork said. “I don’t know, it’s all crazy.”

It’s Excedrin headache No. 18 and the party hasn’t even started. Not a single player has even been caught yet checking out a Super Bowl pom-pom and got himself arrested for illegal use of hands.

A survey conducted for the players association showed 464 players went on injured reserve this season, an increase from 388 last year. So, there’s concern the NFL championship could become not so much a test of talent but a testament to survival.

The Players Association had planned to run its “Let us play,” and “Let them play,” anti-lockout videos four times during a college all-star game on the CBS College Sports Network on Saturday but “once they saw it and realized it had a CBA-oriented message, they decided they wouldn’t air it,” NFLPA executive George Atallah said. “We were told they didn’t want any part of it.

The league denied any culpability in having the video pulled.

Right and wrong doesn’t come into this spitting contest so much as reason. And, at the moment, reason is being far out-weighed by rhetoric. It won’t spoil the party but it feels like this one is going to come with the grand-daddy of all football hangovers.

“We don’t know what they want,” Ward said regarding the league’s views on player safety. “To say the league really cares? They don’t give a f–k about concussions. And now they want to add on two extra games? Are you kidding? Come on, let’s be real.”

Right. Bring on the party favours ... and, maybe a Bromo Seltzer chaser.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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