Hines Ward and I had something in common last Sunday morning. We were both caught off guard by last minute switcheroos.
I took Arizona last week based on Kurt Warner’s steady play. I put his grizzled face up on the front page of Covers but had to scramble to fix things after ESPN’s Adam Schefter said that Warner woke up with a sore neck and the Cards were going to start Matt “Which way to the kegger” Leinart.
Ward, the Steelers Pro Bowl receiver, was equally frustrated Sunday morning. He saw his quarterback practice all week only to learn the day before the game that Ben Roethlisberger wouldn’t start against the Ravens because of lingering concussion symptoms.
“I’ve been out there dinged up,” Ward told NBC. “The following week, got right back out there.”
Of course Ward didn’t know a doctor had ruled Big Ben out, but his comments only confirmed what everyone already knew about the macho-man standards in professional football.
Ward, along with probably half the Steelers locker room, wondered how Roethlisberger could sit out such a critical game because of a little, bitty headache.
That’s why the NFL’s new policy on concussions is long overdue. I think we should even take it a step further: If a player suffers a concussion one week, minor or major, he automatically is ruled out for the following week’s game.
We all know how serious head injuries are. If you don’t go talk to retired players like Merrill Hodge or Ted Johnson.
Taking the decision away from the player protects his health and the team. Football is the ultimate team game, but hurt players have a warped perception of the commitment to their teammates.
Is it more honorable to play hurt or admit that a healthy backup, who practiced all week with the first unit, is the better option?
And, not to sound incredibly selfish, but an automatic sit out would help bettors too. It’d give us all more time to handicap rather than scramble at the last second.
Alright, my head hurts and I haven’t even had my bell rung.
It’s time for this week’s picks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+5.5) at Carolina Panthers
It’s a good thing for Carolina backers to see Jake Delhomme man the clipboard this week, but that doesn't mean Matt Moore is the Second Coming.
He’s not Carolina's quarterback of the future; he’s just holding the spot warm for whomever the Panthers draft this spring.
It looks like I’m not the only one loving the Bucs this week either. This line opened as high as -8 but most shops are dealing -5 now.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (+2.5)
Okay, I’m a hypocrite. I just used 400 words to explain why injured players should cede to healthier backups and now I’m taking a team that’s been playing a wounded duck under center for the last seven games.
Does anyone else find it weird that all the talk this week is concerning Eli Manning’s signature instead of his gimpy legs?
I’ll take the home side and the points.
Tennessee Titans (+6.5) at Indianapolis Colts
Vince Young and Chris Johnson are both playing out of their minds, but Tennessee’s secondary isn't getting nearly enough credit for the club’s turnaround.
Jeff Fisher’s defense is allowing 233.5 passing yards per game and has seven interceptions to just six TD passes since Tom Brady tossed for 380 yards and six touchdowns against the Titans in Week 6.
The Colts might win outright, but I don’t see them covering the number.
Last week: 0-1-1
Season record: 20-13-1