BEREA — Safety T.J. Ward was distraught Wednesday after receiving a $25,000 fine from the league office for an illegal hit Sunday on Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree.
“It’s not even fair,” Ward said. “It’s not fair at all and if you look at the hit a thousand times it’s not an illegal hit at all.”
Ward was penalized 15 yards for what referee Ed Hochuli called unnecessary roughness for contact to the helmet of Ogletree. Ward went shoulder to shoulder with his head to the side, but Ogletree’s head moved upon impact and there appeared to be contact between helmets. Ogletree and cornerback Buster Skrine sustained concussions on the play.
“I think it was completely legal,” Ward said. “I aimed for his chest, I hit him in his chest, he was falling forward. No part of my helmet hit his helmet. No part of my shoulder pad hit his helmet. If it did at any part, it was probably the aftereffect or the end of the hit.
“But you know I think it was just a blown call and a blown punishment by me getting fined.”
Ward was upset for a variety of reasons and is appealing.
He said the fine was more money than he takes home in a week. Before taxes, 1/17th of his $540,000 salary is $31,764.
“If they would’ve suspended me for a game, it would’ve been better for me at least. Not better that I missed a game, but it would be less money,” he said. “We’re out here to try to make a living and we’re just playing a game, not trying to hurt anybody and you’re hindering our ability to play the game and feed our families. I think it’s just ridiculous.”
In the official fine letter, the league referred to him as a repeat offender. He was fined $15,000 as a rookie in 2010 for a hit to the helmet of Bengals receiver Jordan Shipley.
“It wasn’t even similar to the hit I had before,” said Ward, who didn’t finish reading the letter. “I could see if it was a repeat offense in the same year, that makes sense. But a repeat offense from three years ago? C’mon, man. That’s like somebody taking half your paycheck for a typo.”
Finally, Ward doesn’t like where the NFL is headed. The rules already benefit the offenses and promote scoring, and fines like this further tie the hands of the defense.
“I wouldn’t say it’s ruining it, but it’s making it hard to play,” said Ward, who doesn’t think he has a reputation as a dirty player or is being targeted by officials. “You got to be real timid on defense. It just makes it real hard.
“If you want us to let ‘em catch it, just tell us you want us to let ‘em catch it. Put that in the rulebook. Maybe that’ll work.”
Coordinator Dick Jauron said Ward should “keep doing what he’s doing” and his staff will keep coaching the same way.
“I saw the replays multiple times and I didn’t see any head-to-head contact on that play,” he said. “They have to figure it out. I don’t know what you tell the defensive player today.
“All we tell our entire defense is don’t ever intentionally hit another player in the head or the neck. Don’t hit the quarterback intentionally in the knees in the pocket. Other than that, you’ve just got to play, because there’s no way that you can make an adjustment in a split-second where the offensive player ducks his head or dips his shoulder, or turns or twists or whatever they’re going to do. The quarterbacks throw them into tough spots. Maybe they should stop the quarterback from throwing the ball in those tough spots. Put some of the onus on the offense occasionally.”
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