NFL from the Sidelines

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O-R Sports reporter Dale Lolley gets you the insider scoop on the NFL.

After hobnobbing around the NFL in the press boxes and sidelines, sports reporter Dale Lolley will let you know the insider scoop. Dale can also be heard on the Steelers radio network pre-game show prior to every game. Follow him on Twitter at dlolleyor.

Was Bettis taken advantage of? Not in my book

June 21, 2017

There aren’t many players I’ve covered that I have more respect for than Jerome Bettis.

He was always a consummate professional in the way he played, dealt with the fans and the media. He was class all the way.

But Bettis’ statement this week that he felt as if the league took advantage of players in terms of the information it gave them in regard to concussions seems a bit off.

Yes, there was a time when players who suffered concussions were told they just “had their bell rung” and could return to games.

“You definitely feel as though you were taken advantage of in a way that you weren’t given that information, and you always want to have the choice of knowing, and when that is taken away from you, you feel as though you were taken advantage of,” Bettis told the Associated Press.

But Bettis played for a team that took concussions very seriously, taking the lead in concussion studies with IMPACT testing.

And it’s not like we didn’t know in the 1990s and 2000s that concussions were bad.

They’re kind of like smoking. Everyone knows it’s bad for you, but it doesn’t keep people from partaking.

We’ve known for years that concussions aren’t good for you. But that never kept some players from pretending they didn’t happen so they could get back onto the field.

When there’s a lot of money - and jobs - on the line, guys will cover things up.

They can’t so much any longer - or at least they aren’t supposed to be able to do so.

Then you see the hit that Matt Moore of the Dolphins took in last season’s playoffs against the Steelers and watch him immediately re-enter the game.

It’s a risk. And it’s one players take all the time. But taken advantage of? I’m not buying that.

Bettis was paid a lot of money over the course of his career. I witnessed him play through injuries like few others before or since.

He never wanted to come off the field. He was a tough guy in a league full of tough guys. And he played 13 years in the NFL because of it.

He knew the risks, whether it be playing through broken ribs or coming back too soon from a concussion.

@ When the Steelers released Justin Gilbert in February, the thinking then was that they didn’t want to pay his salary for 2017, which was $2.1 million when a $1.2 million roster bonus was factored in.

In fact, GM Kevin Colbert intimated the team hadn’t completely closed the door on bringing Gilbert back.

After all, the Steelers liked him enough a few years ago that they would have taken him in the first round of the draft - perhaps instead of Ryan Shazier if Cleveland hadn’t taken Gilbert earlier. Then, they sent a sixth-round draft pick to Cleveland to acquire him at the start of last season.

As it turns out, the release turned out to be a good move for the Steelers.

News broke this week that Gilbert has been suspended for a year by the NFL for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Obviously, if Gilbert was banged for a year, he had multiple positive tests.

Did the Steelers know this was coming when they released him? Perhaps.

More importantly, however, was the fact that Gilbert couldn’t play. He never earned a spot in the cornerback rotation last season and failed as a kick returner when given a chance at that job, as well.

Having failed with two teams and with a year-long suspension hanging over his head, Gilbert has probably played in his final NFL game.

@ The Steelers announced some special activities for their home games this season, most notably, when they will wear their color rush uniforms.

Those all black uniforms will be worn for a Nov. 16 Thursday night game against the Tennessee Titans. The game also will be the team’s Salute to Service game.

The Steelers also will hold their alumni weekend Nov. 26 against Green Bay, Breast Cancer Awareness weekend Oct. 8 against Jacksonville and an Organ Donor Campaign kickoff Dec. 10 against Baltimore.

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