Big Ben, Warner make a statement by sitting out
I was surprised as anyone when I found out on Saturday that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was going to sit on Sunday night against the Ravens in one of the biggest games that Pittsburgh would play in this season. Primetime, against its biggest rival and in a game that carried huge playoff implications.
But, Big Ben, like Arizona’s Kurt Warner—another franchise QB—decided to sit out a huge game on the team’s schedule.
And both the Steelers and Cardinals lost.
Would there have been a different outcome if we saw Roethlisberger and Warner under center on Sunday? Possibly, but that is beyond the point, because neither of these QBs played.
And, by doing so, both Roethlisberger and Warner both have made statements to their teams and the league that concussions are a major issue. And the league is going to have to listen up—because these two are jersey sellers. They aren’t guys who run down on coverage teams in the kicking game, and they aren’t guys who earn their paycheck by blocking on punt protection.
No, these guys are huge names that warrant huge game checks every week—and they shut it down at a crucial point of the season.
Yes, I read the comments from the post-game locker room by Roethlisberger’s teammate Hines Ward, who said in the NBC interview, "It's almost a must-win. I could see some players or teammates questioning, like 'It's just a concussion. I've played with a concussion before.’ It's almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room: Should he play? Shouldn't he play? It's really hard to say. I've been out there dinged up; the following week, got right back out there. Ben practiced all week. He split time with Dennis Dixon.”
But, Ward wasn’t finished, going on to say, “And then to find out that he's still having some headaches and not playing and it came down to the doctors didn't feel that they were going to clear him or not, it's hard to say. I've lied to a couple of doctors saying I'm straight, I feel good when I know that I'm not really straight."
From my point of view, the comments were out of line from a player that I have the utmost respect for as a competitor. We can’t judge Big Ben, and we can’t judge Warner—who is now questionable for Sunday night’s game against Minnesota—because you can’t diagnose the severity of a head injury at this level—or the effects it will have down the road.
Was it a big game that Roethlisberger missed? Of course it was, but winning in this league requires the rest of the team to handle adversity and to find a way to win when your stars are out. The Steelers didn’t do that last night.
As I have written before here at the NFP, players will lie and they will hide the fact that they don’t feel right when they step on the field with concussions. The way the league has handled it isn’t great, but this is a two-way street folks—and the players themselves are as a much a part of the problem as the league office. I know I did it, and I know plenty of players who went out onto that field when they should have been on the sidelines, or even better, at home relaxing instead of taking more unwanted hits.
Plus, how many more will it take? DeSean Jackson of the Eagles went down yesterday with a concussion, and Redskins QB Jason Campbell said he “blacked out” after a hit he took late in the game against Philly.
Does that sound safe? No chance.
And that’s just it. The big names seem to be taking a stand. Sure, the unknown guys—the bottom of the roster guys—will always risk their own safety by playing after a concussion in fear of losing their jobs. But when Roethlisberger and Warner—preempted by Eagles RB Brian Westbrook—sit, instead of risking their health, the league will have to take notice.
In fact, I actually think that both Roethlisberger and Warner made the right call. And if Warner doesn’t think he is ready to face Favre and the Vikings on Sunday night, then, oh well, Matt Leinart will have to play and play to win.
Because if it is a knee, ankle or shoulder injury, that is what we would be saying. Instead, we see guys—teammates—starting to question if a guy is tough because he has headaches.
Come on people, the NFL is built on violent collisions, and if you—as a player—think that you aren’t ready to take another hit, then the team, the owner and the fans will just have to move on.
Because both Roethlisberger and Warner just took a stand on their own health.
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Listen to Bowen and Bunting discuss the Vikings, Vince Young's drive and the Texans on The Cover 2 Podcast.