Hines Ward isn't taking the NFL's new rules on flagrant hits as personally as other Pittsburgh Steelers, but he said in a recent interview with WCNN-AM in Atlanta that the guidelines clash with the physical nature of the sport.
"I understand where they're coming from, but at the same time, you can't protect football," said the wide receiver, who has taken and doled out his fair share of hits during a decorated 13-year NFL career. "It's a violent sport. If you want to protect it, we need to play flag football.â
All 32 owners voted at last week's NFL Spring Meeting in Indianapolis to punish teams if their players commit multiple flagrant hits that result in fines.
The punishment will be financial, although league vice president Adolpho Birch said that he didn't rule out NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell applying further sanctions such as stripping teams of draft choices.
Citing the "notion of club accountability," Birch said details such as the amount of the fines against teams, or how many player fines would trigger punishment, haven't been determined.
"I'm absolutely sure now after this last rule change that the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots," Harrison tweeted last Tuesday.
Ward wasn't nearly as incendiary in his comments, but he made it clear that he didn't agree with the rules, either.
"That's just something that the owners are going to have to deal with," Ward said. "It's still football. I mean, I understand they're trying to bring safety to the game, but you can't bring safety to a game that's a violent sport already."
Ward said it's impossible to truly protect players from the impacts of the game when you factor in the size and speed of the participants involved.
"When you have two grown men traveling at 20 mph on a head-on collision, guess what? Something in your body is going to hurt," he said. "So regardless of what you do, it's still a physical ballgame. But what are you going to do when a runner is continuing to try to run over a guy? Are you going to just wait until one guy can't tackle him before you go in there and assist somebody?"