September 24, 2012

Belichick doesn't expect fine after grabbing arm of official

By BARRY WILNER/AP Pro Football Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, left, looks on during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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However, the penalty still is enforced. Instead of 15 yards, officials marked it off from the Detroit 44 — the wrong spot.

"As soon as the play was declared incomplete it becomes a first down and it becomes 15 yards from the play before," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.

The Redskins were penalized 20 yards instead of 15 for unsportsmanlike conduct in the final seconds of their 38-31 loss.

Robert Griffin III spiked the ball to stop the clock with 7 seconds left. Then tight end Fred Davis was called for a 5-yard false start penalty.

According to Washington coach Mike Shanahan, at least one official indicated there would be a 10-second runoff, ending the game — and the Bengals, led by coach Marvin Lewis, started walking onto the field. There shouldn't have been a runoff, though, because the clock had been stopped by the spike. The Redskins began arguing, and eventually the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called.

The officials never announced specifically who the call was against, just that the penalty would be added to the false start, a total of 20 yards. But they walked off 25 yards — the official game play-by-play said 20 yards were enforced for the unsportsmanlike conduct.

That left the Redskins with a third-and-50.

"They threw the flag at us, and there was half of the (Bengals) team on the field," Shanahan said. "I was disappointed in that."

The players' union posted an open letter to team owners calling on them to end the lockout of the regular officials that began four months ago. The NFL used replacements in 2001 for one week before a new deal was reached.

This year, criticism from coaches and players has mounted for the replacements, who come from lower college levels or from other leagues such as Arena Football.

There have been numerous complaints by players and coaches — certainly more than when the regular officials work — and Sunday was no different. In one particularly embarrassing episode, an official was removed from working a New Orleans game last week because he posted photos of himself in Saints gear on Facebook.

Then there were more questionable decisions Sunday:

—At Nashville, with 16 seconds remaining in regulation, Detroit's Shaun Hill threw to Nate Burleson on the sideline and he then lost the ball. It looked to be a completion then a fumble because the side judge threw his beanie, but another official ruled an incomplete pass. Titans CB Alterraun Verner had grabbed the ball and started to run and there were questions why the replay booth didn't review it.

—Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo fumbled twice on plays in the third quarter that weren't initially ruled turnovers until challenged by Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano.

First, Romo was in the grasp of Gerald McCoy with his right arm extended, when he flicked the ball forward in what was initially ruled an incomplete pass. Officials watched the replay and determined the ball was loose when Romo tried to push it out, and called it a fumble recovered by Gary Gibson at the 19.

Later, Michael Bennett sacked Romo and knocked the ball loose, but officials quickly whistled the play dead and Romo down even as Eric Wright ran toward the end zone with the football.

After Schiano challenged, officials reversed it to a fumble recovered at the 31, and the Bucs failed to score.

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