With heavy indications that Monday will be the day the lockout officially dies, we can finally look forward to football battles being held on the field by men in uniforms instead of by guys wearing suits in the courtroom or conference room.
One of the things we’re looking forward to the most is the resumption of hostilities between the Ravens and Steelers. Their games in recent years — both regular season and playoffs — have been hard fought and entertaining. Off the field, they’ve made sure to cultivate a healthy amount of animosity that has only made the buildup to their games that much more enjoyable.
The lockout did nothing to cool off any bad feelings. Ray Rice and Ryan Clark spent some time stoking the fires in recent weeks and now Ravens safety Ed Reed has joined the fray. Reed isn’t the first to share the opinion that Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is a dirty player, but he is one of the first to tell the world that he’s said as much directly to Ward.
“I love Hines as a player and I told him that,” Reed said. “But I told him also for a long time, ‘You’re a dirty player because I know how you play.’”
This isn’t the first time Reed has leveled these kinds of accusations in Ward’s direction. In the last regular season game between the teams in December, Reed felt that Ward tried to “cheap-shot” him by blocking him with the crown of his helmet. Ward was not penalized or fined for the play in question.
Reed also said that he tries to play the game in a different way than Ward because he doesn’t try to hurt people. The NFL hasn’t always agreed with Reed’s magnanimous ways, including a $10,000 fine for a hit to Drew Brees’s head late last season.
The lines of this particular debate have been drawn for some time now and there aren’t likely to be many people changing their own opinion about Ward based on Reed’s comments. It is just a little more fodder for the first 2011 meeting of the teams which is, happily enough, scheduled for the first weekend of the season.
With the overnight developments in the labor situation, that day feels a lot closer than it looks on the calender.