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Flurry of fines irks Polamalu

One of the most soft-spoken and quiet players in the Steelers' locker room had plenty to say Wednesday about the NFL's emphasis on player safety.

Strong safety Troy Polamalu said football "just loses so much of its essence when it becomes like a pansy game." He added that the NFL is trying to protect players from injuries because it is in the league's best interests to do so.

"It has more to do with money and not really with our safety," Polamalu said.

Polamalu's pointed comments came a few days after wide receiver Hines Ward learned he had received a second fine from the NFL for unnecessary roughness.

Neither play for which he was fined drew a penalty, and Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said he voiced his concerns about Ward's punishment to Roger Goodell in a letter he sent to the NFL commissioner.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he plans to call the NFL to find out why Ward was fined but not penalized for separate plays in the Steelers' past two games.

Ward is one of the most physical wide receivers in the NFL and has long been one of the game's best downfield blockers.

Polamalu said Ward's style is how the game is supposed to be played. He wondered if there would be a place in today's NFL for some of the icons who helped make the league as popular as it is.

"When you see guys like Dick Butkus, the Ronnie Lotts, the Jack Tatums, these guys really went after people," Polamalu said. "Now, they couldn't survive in this type of game. They wouldn't have enough money. They'd be paying fines all the time and they'd be suspended for a year after they do it two games in a row. It's kind of ridiculous."

Rooney said the league is justified in trying to eliminate senseless violence.

During NFL owners meetings, which concluded yesterday, the league showed a tape it had put together of cheap shots that were delivered during the course of games.

Rooney said that kind of play has no place in the NFL.

"They showed some hits -- the Steelers were not involved -- that were really gruesome hits," Rooney said. "Guys going out of their way to hit a quarterback on an interception, hitting the kicker coming down the field. I think those guys should be bounced right out of a game."

Rooney, however, conceded that he was as puzzled as Ward over the fines for unnecessary roughness the latter received from the Steelers' games against the Ravens and Jaguars.

Said Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson when asked about Ward's situation, "That doesn't make any sense at all. Hines has always been one of the better blockers in the NFL. I don't understand where you get unnecessary roughness from. That's not even a rule."

Ward said yesterday he does not expect the NFL to rescind or reduce the fines that total $15,000. He said he will be satisfied if his appeal of the fines simply yields answers for why the NFL docked him $5,000, and then $10,000.

"I'm going to continue giving all I got and play hard," Ward said, "and once I find out the justification of the fines, then I have to adjust my game accordingly."

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