Bengals LB Rivers breaks jaw on Ward block, out for year

Updated: October 20, 2008, 1:01 PM ET
By James Walker | ESPN.com

CINCINNATI -- Bengals first-round pick Keith Rivers suffered a broken jaw in the first quarter of Sunday's 38-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and will miss the remainder of the 2008 season, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.

Hines Ward

Ward

Keith Rivers

Rivers

The hit came from Steelers receiver Hines Ward, who was blocking for teammate Matt Spaeth during a reception and caught an unsuspecting Rivers with a crushing blow that knocked him out of the game.

"I'm not going to wait around until you hit me," Ward said. "It was a clean hit. I didn't get penalized for it."

Rivers was the Bengals' second-leading tackler for the season, starting every game. Linebacker Brandon Johnson will get more playing time with Rivers out. Johnson finished tied for the team lead with seven tackles on Sunday.

Johnson saw a double standard at work.

NFL GameDay: Steelers vs. Bengals highlights

NFL.com Video

Minus RB Willie Parker, the Steelers handled the Bengals 38-10 in Cincinnati.

"No flag came out because it wasn't a quarterback," Johnson said. "If he was a quarterback, then they definitely would have thrown the flag. If it was a receiver, they definitely would have thrown the flag. It's just something that comes with playing defense. If you play defense, then you're pretty much expendable, I guess.

"It's part of the game. It was a good block. If I was in Hines Ward's shoes, I probably would have taken the same shot. You can't really blame him."

The play was ruled a clean hit as no flags were thrown. But Ward's hit did upset some of Rivers' teammates after the game.

"That's what he's known for," Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe said. "You expect that coming in. People are going to take their shots when they can. Too bad he can't hit someone face up. It's too bad he has to wait until he's not looking to get him. It's unfortunate. It's the type of guy he is. That's all right. We play them again. He's a blind-side guy."

Rivers, the No. 9 overall pick, finished his rookie campaign with 37 tackles and an interception.

Ward was fined $15,000 last week on two separate infractions by the league that caused controversy during Pittsburgh's bye week. Ward was not flagged for either of the plays in question, which upset the Steelers' brass, including head coach Mike Tomlin and Ward's teammate Troy Polamalu.

Another fine from the league could be upcoming for Ward after Sunday's hit on Rivers.

"I'm not doing anything illegal; it was a clean hit,'' Ward said. "I didn't stand over the guy or anything. ... We'll see. I'm not going to change my ways. If they're going to keep fining me for that, then I'm going to get fined all year.''

James Walker covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

ALSO SEE