Cam disses ref: ‘disrespect,’ luckily it wasn’t disqualification
Week 16: Raiders at Panthers
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton might have revealed a double standard for ejecting quarterbacks. Although there are no official statistics kept, the most recent (and only) instance I can find of a quarterback getting an early shower was in 1995 when Buccaneers quarterback Trent Dilfer was flagged for fighting with Vikings defensive tackle John Randle. Gary Lane was the referee (story and photo, hat tip to BD Sullivan at Pro Football Researchers Association forum).
The play from Sunday had Newton releasing a pass with Raiders safety Mike Mitchell following through on a takedown. The tackle was not rough or particularly late but, arguably, could have had a lot less post-pass action from Mitchell (video, second clip at link).
Protesting a perceived roughing-the-passer call, Newton leaped to his feet and snapped at referee Jerome Boger. By lunging at him, Newton bumped Boger, which aggression towards an official (even minor) is automatically subject to disqualification.
From the rulebook, Rule 12-3-1, unsportsmanlike conduct includes:
(g) unnecessary physical contact with a game official. … Any violation of (g) above may result in disqualification. … An official must see the entire action for a player to be disqualified.
Arguably, Boger does not have full view of Newton snapping at him in an aggressive manner. He hears the usual protest calls and is suddenly bumped, which Boger apparently chalks up to Newton approaching the referee too quickly, and therefore, not worthy of a DQ. But, with the lack of quarterbacks (who routinely protest with the officials) being disqualified, the standard of removing a team’s quarterback must be reserved for egregious offenses. Key players can and have been ejected from other positions, but it is still not the same as the impact of a team losing their quarterback due to penalty.
Boger’s announcement of the penalty was originally that he was bumped by Newton.
After the play was over, unsportsmanlike conduct, offense, number 1, for bumping an official. Fifteen yard penalty, down counts, third down.
But, in an interview with a pool reporter following the game, Boger said that he meant to call it differently, such as:
Unsportsmanlike conduct against the quarterback for disrespectfully addressing the official.
I don’t know why Boger walked back from the “bumping” call (an almost universal ejection) to a “disrespectful” call (rarely cause for ejection, no matter what you say about the official’s mother). As for the announcement, “I mispoke when I said he bumped the official [implying malicious intent],” Boger said. “I started to correct the announcement after I made that when I realized what I said.” But it had the net effect of downgrading the charge against the quarterback and lessening the potential sentence against the quarterback, all because he is a quarterback.
By doing so, Boger announced a completely different foul than what was assessed, because they are two different tiers of unsportsmanlike conduct. (Even Ed Hochuli, the master of the referee’s microphone, called the wrong penalty this weekend in a pivotal, game-ending call. Had Hochuli’s announced penalty been assessed, there would have been time for another play.)
But Boger says, eh, we just crossed paths: “There was some contact between he and I, but it wasn’t of a malicious nature. It was where I was moving away and when I stopped to confirm what he was saying we slightly brushed each other.”
Had Boger been looking at Newton when Newton lunged his headgear towards a fabric-capped official, Boger would not likely be confirming what he is saying, but recoiling to protect himself.
There is no doubt that Newton will be fined for his actions. However, depending on the fine the league office chooses to assess might reveal more about the true call. Based on the schedule of fines released by the league, if the NFL backs up Boger’s post-game assessment, it is a $21,000 fine for “verbal or other non-physical offense against official.” If the league goes with the original call, “physical contact with an official,” the fine is $26,250.
Media pool report with referee Jerome Boger
Q: Can you just take me through the play involving Cam [Newton] when you were right next to him?
Boger: I misspoke when I said he bumped the official. What I was penalizing him for was disrespectfully addressing the official. There was some contact between he and I, but it wasn’t of a malicious nature. It was where I was moving away and when I stopped to confirm what he was saying we slightly brushed each other.
Q: What should the announcement have been?
Boger: “Unsportsmanlike conduct against the quarterback for disrespectfully addressing the official.”
Q: But you said there was contact?
Boger: I did. I misspoke that he bumped the official.
Q: In your judgment it wasn’t any kind of malicious contact?
Boger: No, it wasn’t.
Q: No thought of ejecting him at any point?
Boger: No, and I started to correct the announcement after I made that when I realized what I said because I wasn’t trying to get on that particular page. It wasn’t contact that way.