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NFL: Mendenhall has right to own opinion

By Ron Cook
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
I said it a year ago when a lot of people insisted they wouldnít support the Pitssburgh Steelers as long as Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback. Iíll say it again now when many want to chase running back Rashard Mendenhall out of town because he went public with an opinion that differed from theirs.
Be careful what you wish for, Steelers fans.
You might regret it later.
Not that Mendenhall is going anywhere.
Nor should he.
Sorry.
The Steelers will be right to stand behind Mendenhall, who shared his controversial Twitter thoughts Monday on Osama bin Ladenís death and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, just as they stood behind Roethlisberger when he faced rape allegations last spring. Itís because heís a star player, sure.
Heís on the verge of becoming a big-time NFL back. No one will argue that the team wouldnít cut the third-string guard if he did what Mendenhall did or, for that matter, faced the accusations that Roethlisberger did. The guard wouldnít be worth the headaches. No, releasing him for giving his opinion or facing unsubstantiated allegations wouldnít be fair or just. But since when did life become fair and just?
My guess is Steelers president Art Rooney II, who quickly distanced himself and the team from Mendenhallís comments, will call him into his office when the NFL lockout ends. He will tell him he appreciates his right to have an opinion, but that he should be a little more thoughtful and careful with expressing it, especially if itís going to put the organization in any kind of a bad light. Iím also guessing coach Mike Tomlin will share that same message with the team early in training camp and make sure the players understand that, although the new social media can be cool, it can be dangerous.
Then, Rooney and Tomlin will send Mendenhall out with instructions to run for 100 yards and three touchdowns in the opening game against the Baltimore Ravens on, coincidentally, Sept. 11.

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