Bettis claims he faked injury so Steelers wouldn't cut him

Updated: August 22, 2007, 5:41 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former Pittsburgh Steelers star Jerome Bettis, in a new book to be published in early September, says he faked a training camp injury in 2000 to avoid getting cut by the team.

... I wasn't faking that I had an injury. I was just faking that the injury happened on that short-yardage play. I had to fool the coaches and the team's medical department into thinking the injury had occurred on that play. Otherwise, the Steelers would have had their reason to cut me and my salary.

Jerome Bettis, in his new book

The book, "The Bus. My Life in and out of a Helmet," includes an account where Bettis came into training camp with a knee that had been surgically repaired the previous summer. Bettis, fearing he would be cut if the team knew how much the knee was injured, didn't say anything. During a short-yardage drill at an early camp practice, Bettis fell down, grabbed his knee and yelled in pain.

"Man, did I do a nice job of acting,'' Bettis wrote in the book, co-authored by ESPN.com national columnist Gene Wojciechowski. "The thing is, I wasn't faking that I had an injury. I was just faking that the injury happened on that short-yardage play. I had to fool the coaches and the team's medical department into thinking the injury had occurred on that play. Otherwise, the Steelers would have had their reason to cut me and my salary."

Because Bettis was hurt in training camp, the Steelers couldn't release him. He was worried that the Steelers, and especially offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, wanted to give his job to Richard Huntley. Bettis cited a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette which said that Huntley told his agent that Bettis would be cut.

"I effectively negated any funny business they were trying to pull on me," Bettis wrote. "I took the pressure off a head coach who was probably trying to get rid of me. In my mind, what I did was justifiable because the original injury occurred while I was playing for the Steelers."

He rushed for 1,341 yards in the 2000 season. Five years later, he was on Pittsburgh's Super Bowl winning team and then retired.

Bettis also wrote that Steelers coach Bill Cowher was never totally sold on quarterback Kordell Stewart, despite the fact Stewart was the team's most valuable player in 2001.

"For some reason, Coach would never really commit fully to Kordell ... and because of that, we had no consistent leadership from the quarterback position," Bettis wrote.

"Nothing against Tommy (Maddox, who replaced Stewart in the third game of 2002), but I always had my doubts that he won the job fair and square."

Stewart started five games that season for the Steelers, then left. He played for the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens before leaving the NFL in 2005.

The book will be released on Sept. 4.