As the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, much of the focus has settled on Steelers receiver Hines Ward and Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers.
Last year, Ward ended Rivers’ first NFL season ended prematurely with a blindside block that broke the rookie’s jaw.
In the offseason, the league outlawed Ward’s trademark maneuver, which often occurs away from the play. (In Rivers’ case, it didn’t.)
But Ward says he’ll continue to do what he’s done in the past.
“I’ll still hit him,” Ward said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. “I’ll just get
fined. There’s nothing I can do about it. It’s either that or try to
hurt somebody. So are you going to fine me, or do you want me to end
someone’s career? I’d rather take a fine than try to end somebody’s
career, so I’m not going to change.”
Ward basically is saying that his alternative is to hit a guy low, and risk tearing up his knee. But a guy can live a long time with a messed up leg joint. It’s hard to make it beyond the normal U.S. male life expectancy with a brain that has been rattled in its box one time to many while playing football.
For his part, Rivers isn’t saying whether he’ll be looking to deliver a little pigskin retribution to Ward. “We’ll see how it all plays out, and we’ll see how the rule works out,”
Rivers said. “Hopefully it works out and people don’t miss half a year.
I’m just looking forward to playing. I really don’t have much to say
But Ward relishes his reputation for delivering knockout blows.
“The unfortunate thing is me being labeled that, and then the rule
change came out, so it’s kind of like me being singled out as the dirty
guy that’s in the league, a dirty offensive player,” Ward said. “A wide
receiver being dirty — I take that as a compliment.”
He shouldn’t. Because if he continues to apply the crown of his helmet to the helmets and chins and jaws of unsuspecting opponents, Ward initially will be fined.
Eventually, he’ll be suspended.