PITTSBURGH (AP) -The NFL assured several of the Pittsburgh Steelers' top players during an uncommon in-season meeting Wednesday that the league isn't trying to transform Hines Ward into Fines Ward.
NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson repeatedly emphasized during an unannounced closed-door meeting that included Ward, Troy Polamalu and coach Mike Tomlin that the Steelers aren't being singled out by the league for discipline.
During a recent two-week stretch, four Steelers players were fined a total of $50,000, including $15,000 in fines to Ward for two plays that weren't penalized on the field. The fines - among 139 levied by the league this season - were to improve player safety and conduct and no other reason, Anderson said.
``It (the meeting) gave us a chance to get on the same page and, for lack of a better term, clear the air so this club could move on very confident that our interests are aligned with theirs and vice versa,'' Anderson said.
s). They told us their side and we explained our side. We have a better understanding and ... that's all you can ask for. We're on the same page now.''
Steelers captains Ben Roethlisberger, James Farrior and Ward were among those talking with Anderson during the kind of meeting the league rarely holds the week of an important game. The Steelers (5-1) play the Super Bowl champion New York Giants (5-1) on Sunday.
The meeting came about after Ward's fines caused Steelers chairman Dan Rooney to write and Tomlin to call the league office for clarification.
Polamalu, who was not fined, also spoke out against the numerous fines being levied this season, arguing the league was taking the physicality out of a game he said was becoming ``two-hand touch'' and ``flag football.''
The Steelers' reaction led NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to send Anderson to Pittsburgh - and one player to joke that NFL obviously doesn't stand for No Fines League.
``Given the discussion last week and some of the comments that were made by the players with regard to the genuineness and sincerity of our player safety initiatives, we just felt it made sense to come here ... to engage directly with coach Tomlin and the players so we could talk things out and listen to them express their concerns about what we're doing,'' said Anderson, the league's executive vice president of football operations.
roductive, saying, ``I think that's the start at laying this thing to bed and moving on and focusing on what we should focus on and that's playing football games.''
Anderson, addressing one of the Steelers' primary concerns, stressed that an on-field penalty isn't required for a player to be fined.
``You've got seven officials at same-time speed, they're not going to catch everything,'' Anderson said. ``We are particularly concerned about player safety violations and we will fine you even though you haven't been flagged.''
Ward did learn from Anderson that he won't be fined for a hit that broke the jaw of Bengals rookie linebacker Keith Rivers on Sunday.
Anderson also told the players the league would investigate on-air comments by Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs that the Ravens put a ``bounty'' on Ward and Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall.
Mendenhall, the Steelers' first-round draft pick, needed surgery and was lost for the season with a shoulder injury that occurred during a 23-20 overtime win over Baltimore on Sept. 29.
``That bounty notion is completely against the rules ... to the extent that someone is engaged in that activity, we will look into it and address it,'' Anderson said. ``We've seen the comments and we're trying to determine the completeness of the circumstances.''
orrying about what a guy says about a bounty. ... I've been having a bounty for five years now. But they are looking into it. I'll let them handle that; there's really nothing I can do.''
Added Tomlin: ``We don't lose sleep over what anyone says.''
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