By Teresa Varley
Ray Anderson, the NFL's Executive Director of Football Operations, visited the Steelers on Wednesday because of recent comments and concerns about fines that Steelers players have received. The league talked to the team's management and both sides agreed that an open conversation would be beneficial.
"We just felt it made sense to come out here so we could communicate and engage directly with Coach (Mike) Tomlin and the players and talk things out," said Anderson. "We wanted to listen to them, let them express their concerns with us about what we are doing, why we are doing it and we in turn could really emphasize with them that the things we are doing, particularly with player safety are meant to protect all players, not just star players and certainly not just quarterbacks.
"We want to hear what they are saying, hear what the concerns are and we can respond to them and hopefully give you real comfort that this commissioner and all football operations are sincere about the initiatives for player safety, first and foremost. It is because of player safety and not for economic purposes, or not because we just want to protect the star players."
Tomlin thought the meeting was a good idea and it was valuable for all who took part.
"It was productive; our issues and concerns were heard," said Tomlin. "They expressed their sentiments on the issue and really I think that it was important to have that."
Several players attended the meeting with Tomlin, although he did not reveal who they were.
"What I will say is there were some guys who were directly involved, and some guys who we think provide key leadership," said Tomlin. "The people who had some direct questions and the people who had an opportunity to express their views on some things were given that opportunity. It was a nice exchange of frank feelings of where we are. I think that it provides closure for us to be quite honest with you."
The meeting was initiated after Hines Ward was fined multiple times and looked for an explanation and safety Troy Polamalu said that the NFL is becoming like a "pansy game" and that safety really isn't the driving factor behind the fines.
"Our discussion with Troy wasn't whether or not it was a pansy league," said Anderson. "Our discussion with Troy was that we wanted him to understand that our interests and emphasis on player safety was genuine, was sincere and it wasn't driven by money or the economics. It wasn't driven by just trying to protect the star players. It was legitimately about player safety, so any indication and any comments that made it seem that it was money first and foremost, that was just misdirected and we wanted to make sure he understands that our concern about player safety is real and it's not about the money."
On some of the fines the Steelers received the players were not flagged for their actions in the game, but instead the fine came as a result of reviewing the tape at the NFL's office. Anderson revealed that of the fines that have been levied so far this year about 40 percent of them were on plays that didn't draw a flag.
"You have seven officials at game-time speed. They aren't going to catch everything, but in our office we are particularly looking at player safety violations," said Anderson. "We will fine you even though you haven't been flagged."
Anderson also addressed a serious issue that recently arose when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said on a sports talk show that they had a "bounty" on wide receiver Hines Ward and rookie running back Rashard Mendenhall, who suffered a broken shoulder against the Ravens at Heinz Field and is out for the season.
"We definitely like to send our messages to rookie running backs who think they've made it," said Suggs. "We did a good a job of sending a message."
He also added that "Hines Ward is definitely a dirty player, a cheap shot artist."
Anderson said the league is looking into the comments and they are taking them seriously.
"That bounty notion is completely against the rule and to the extent that if someone is engaged in that activity, we will look into it aggressively," said Anderson. "We are trying to determine the completeness of the circumstances. We will look into and if it is determined in fact that there was a bounty verified, there will certainly be accountability."