One of the realities of the NFL’s increased emphasis on player safety is that NFL players don’t necessarily want the NFL to increasingly emphasize their safety if it means changing the way they’ve played the game. Players want to lead with their heads, players want to be allowed to shake off a concussion and go right back onto the field, and they don’t appreciate it when the league office tells them they can’t.
There’s now another example out of Pittsburgh of the way the players have resisted the league’s rules that are designed to keep them safe.
On Sunday night, Steelers receiver Hines Ward left the game after a helmet-to-helmet hit that the team originally said was a “neck” injury but coach Mike Tomlin later admitted was a concussion. Now Tomlin says that the Steelers’ decision to prevent Ward from going back into the game was an example of protecting Ward from himself.
“I think we’re all pretty familiar with the climate that we’re in, in regards to concussions,” Tomlin said. “Sometimes, you’ve got to protect the extreme competitors from themselves, and Hines is that. We love and respect him for that, but we had to act in his best interests.”
Acting in the players’ best interests is particularly hard when the players disagree with the league about what their best interests are.