Roethlisberger: Give McNabb a break on tie rule

PITTSBURGH -- Turns out Donovan McNabb wasn't the only NFL player who didn't know a regular-season game could end in a tie.

McNabb, the Eagles quarterback, and several teammates were surprised when their game Sunday in Cincinnati ended in a 13-all tie. McNabb was under the impression games were played to a conclusion, even though the NFL rule that allows only one overtime period during the regular season was adopted in 1974.

"I've never been a part of a tie. I never even knew that was in the rule book," McNabb said.

McNabb's remarks were greeted incredulously by some fans who wondered how an NFL player couldn't know such a basic rule. Surprisingly, Steelers offensive captains Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward said Tuesday they believe many players around the league didn't know ties could occur.

Roethlisberger guessed half the league's players didn't know. Ward, a former Super Bowl MVP and an 11-season veteran, acknowledged he was among them -- and he played in a tie only six years ago.

Until Sunday, there hadn't been an NFL tie since the Atlanta Falcons rallied from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to tie the Steelers 34-34 in Pittsburgh on Nov. 10, 2002.

"No, I didn't know," Ward said. "I thought we were the last team to do it when we played the Falcons. I thought we just played it until you have a winner or something. It's kind of weird now that you can still tie ballgames."

Roethlisberger speculated many players didn't know ties can happen because games are played to a conclusion in high school and college football. Also, a large percentage of current NFL players weren't in the league when that Falcons-Steelers tie occurred.

If he had been standing on the sideline late in the overtime period Sunday, Roethlisberger said, he would have needed time to sort out whether a tie can happen.

"I think people are making too big a deal and are being too hard on Donovan because you'd be surprised, I bet at least 50 percent of the league didn't know that at the time," Roethlisberger said. "You'd be real surprised. I think people just assume that the quarterback should know it all and that everyone should know that stuff and it's not necessarily true because who ever thinks about that stuff?"

Before Ward and Roethlisberger talked to reporters, coach Mike Tomlin was asked if he was confident his players knew that a game can end in a tie. The Steelers, coincidentally, play the Bengals on Thursday night.

"I assume they do, but obviously that's a dangerous assumption," Tomlin said.

Would he remind them such a possibility exists?

"I'm not going to address it," he said. "I'll assume that if they didn't know then, now they do know and they won't tell you if they didn't (know)."

Too late for that.

"How often does it come up?" Roethlisberger said. "The rules change so often that you never know what happens. People are being way, way too hard on Donovan and making way too big a deal of this."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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