For seemingly the umpteenth time this season, Hines Ward and his physical play are in the news. This week the discussion revolves around the possibility of some payback the Cincinnati Bengals may impart Thursday night in retaliation for the devastating hit Ward put on Keith Rivers when the teams played in Cincinnati earlier this season.
As usual, some in the media are pontificating about revenge, dirty hits, bounties, and their place in the NFL. That is typically my cue to set the record straight on an issue that seemingly won't go away, so here goes: Ward is one of the most respected players in the league and his hit on Rivers was entirely legal. And awesome. He's paid to make that block. It is Rivers' own fault for not protecting himself, and I have not spoken with one current or former player who feels differently.
Last time I checked, football was a collision sport and people get involved in it at every level because of the physical component that allows males to unleash their aggression in a productive and exhilarating way. I played with way too many prima donna wide receivers who were only concerned about their own personal statistics to not enjoy the toughness and selfless attitude Ward brings to the Steelers. His devastating blocks aren't about him; they are about the team and his role within it. Offensive linemen around the league love him, need I say more?
I am sure Rivers wants to pay back Ward for the vicious hit that sent him to IR with a broken jaw. Who wouldn't? That is human nature. Players want to reciprocate the physical punishment they receive from an opponent every week. In fact, one of the overriding mottos in NFL locker rooms is: Get them before they get you. But there's another theme that is just as true, though maybe less well known: If they get you, try to get them back worse.
The problem with trying to get revenge in a legal manner is it has to happen in the context of a play, one in which you have to make sure you complete your assignment first. It's not exactly target practice. I got popped by a safety one time in an NFL game and I wanted to return the favor in the worst way, but it's just not that easy. Heck, I have even tried to figure out how I could somehow pay back a former coach standing on the sidelines but that thought was quickly dismissed by my realization that I had to worry about my job, not some personal vendetta.
So while there is no doubt that some of the Bengals players would love to get a shot on Ward Thursday night, it is not very easy to do while still being focused on the task at hand and not getting penalized. Besides, Rivers isn't playing and he should be the one that really wants to deliver that blow. And when he does, you can bet Ward will be waiting.
I couldn't help but watch Monday night's finish between the Bills and Browns and think our great game is flawed to some extent. As I've already mentioned, football is about aggression and physicality. It is played by tough men who sacrifice their bodies for fun and to make a living while entertaining the masses.
So why then, after having men physically challenge each other for 58 minutes, do so many games seemingly hinge on whether or not some guy can kick a ball between metal posts? I am fully aware there were dozens of plays that had an impact on the outcome of the game Monday night, but at the end of the day, one guy made the kick and one guy missed it and that was the difference. It just doesn't seem right or fair to the other 52 guys on the team.
I have spent time with both Buffalo and Cleveland and know Rian Lindell and Phil Dawson, so this is no knock on them, but rather an open invitation to try to find a better solution. I watch the finish of every NFL game every weekend in my job as a host for the Sirius Sunday Drive and it just seems like so many of them come down to whether or not a guy can make the kick. Maybe I am way off on this, but it just doesn't seem right. I know it might be compelling drama, but there has to be a better way.
The key to the success of the 10-0 Titans is pretty clear and it has nothing to do with Kerry Collins. Or Albert Haynesworth. Or even Jeff Fisher, for that matter. No, only one player can be statistically and historically connected to the Titans dominance at the beginning of the season, and that player is right guard Jake Scott.
You see, Scott has made quite the habit of starting fast in his NFL career. His three previous seasons started 13-0, 9-0, 7-0 and now he's on a team that's 10-0. Clearly the Titans knew what they were doing when they signed the former Colt to a free-agent contract this offseason to replace the retired Benji Olsen.
"I mess with the other guys in the O-Line room about it, it has kind of become a running joke," said Scott, who's having another solid season and might warrant some Pro Bowl mention. "They were all talking like, 'Man, we are 6-0, 7-0,' and I was like 'It's no big deal, I do this every year.' "