Wednesday, October 22, 2008
League meets with Steelers to discuss statements
By James Walker
PITTSBURGH -- The NFL held a private meeting Wednesday with the Pittsburgh Steelers following a series of controversial statements the team made last week.
On the command of commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL sent Ray Anderson, the league's executive vice president of football operations, to Pittsburgh to meet with "a small group" of Steelers that included team owner Dan Rooney, head coach Mike Tomlin, receiver Hines Ward and safety Troy Polamalu.
"I believe it was a very productive discussion," Anderson said. "You can ask Coach Tomlin and the players themselves. They've certainly indicated to us that, No. 1, they understand, and No. 2, they respect that we took the time to come sit down and engage and talk to them directly."
Tomlin, Ward and Polamalu all questioned the way the league handled fines after Ward was docked $15,000 for two infractions the team felt were unnecessary. Polamalu, who is rarely outspoken, went so far as to say the NFL is becoming a "pansy" league.
Goodell is en route to London and talked with Anderson last week specifically about the Steelers and figured a face-to-face meeting with a higher-up from the league office was the best way to clear the air.
"It was nice exchange of frank feelings about where we are, and I think it provides a little closure for us, to be quite honest with you," Tomlin said. "Now we can get back to focusing on what we need to focus on."
Ward was not fined for Sunday's crushing block of Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers. The play broke Rivers' jaw and ended his season. Anderson clarified to the Steelers and the media Wednesday that, under current NFL rules, that play was a legal hit.
A big point of contention with the Steelers last week was neither of Ward's fines was flagged during the game, which Anderson also discussed with the team Wednesday.
"It is not a requirement that, in fact, a flag be thrown before a person can be fined for a foul," said Anderson, who said there were 139 fines distributed so far leading into last week's games. "What we explained to the players is about 40 percent of our fines are assessed against plays that are actually not flagged on the field."
Anderson also mentioned that the NFL is looking into recent comments made by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs against Ward and Pittsburgh rookie tailback Rashard Mendenhall. Suggs mentioned on a recent radio interview that the team has a "bounty" on those two players.
"That 'bounty' notion is completely against the rules," Anderson said. "To the extent that someone is engaged in that activity, we will look into it and address it. Yes, we've seen the comments and we're trying to determine the completeness of the circumstances."
James Walker covers the NFL for ESPN.com