PITTSBURGH (AP) — Linebacker LaMarr Woodley isn’t apologizing for saying the Patriots and Bengals would “lay down” in their season-ending games so the Super Bowl champion Steelers wouldn’t return to the playoffs.
Woodley’s reasoning: Did anyone watch the Bengals lose to the Jets 37-0 on Sunday night?
While the Patriots played most starters until the end of their 34-27 loss in Houston — leading receiver Wes Welker sustained a season-ending knee injury during a game that mattered little to New England — the Bengals looked lethargic and disinterested.
Just as Woodley predicted they would be when he said last week, “All of them lay down. … Cincinnati is probably going to go into New York and lay down for the Jets and not play them hard just because they’re not going to want to see Pittsburgh in it.”
By the time Cincinnati lost, it didn’t matter to the Steelers (9-7), who needed an improbable combination of results to sneak into the playoffs and didn’t get it after beating Miami 30-24.
Woodley wasn’t backing down Monday, although the Bengals couldn’t have helped the Steelers even by winning.
“I was just calling it how I saw it,” Woodley said. “If you watched the games, I don’t need to say anything more about it. … I’m not a guy who starts trouble, but sometimes you have to speak your mind. Sometimes, you’re wrong. And sometimes, you’re right. But if you watched the games, you can tell me if I’m wrong or right.”
None of Woodley’s Steelers teammates echoed his remarks, which caused a stir in New England and Cincinnati. Some thought he was joking. Defensive tackle Casey Hampton disagreed, saying teams assured of going to the playoffs own the right to determine how they use their personnel.
Still, Woodley doesn’t think it’s necessary for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to introduce incentives for teams to keep playing their starters after their playoff position is secure, even though Woodley wanted the Bengals and Patriots to do exactly that.
On Sunday, Goodell suggested enticements such as extra draft picks might persuade teams to play their regulars for more than a quarter or two late in the season, thus maintaining the sport’s integrity as teams jockey to get into the playoffs.
The Jets, for example, qualified after beating two teams that pulled most of their regulars early, the Colts and Bengals.
“But I don’t think you need to do all that,” Woodley said. “Coaches are going to make those decisions to rest players or not. Players want to play in games and win games. I don’t want to rest. I want to go out there and play, because I want a winning record. But I can’t see having incentives. That won’t matter, because they’re going to play or not depending on the coaches.”