The NFL, in an attempt to protect its officials, sent a memo to all teams on Monday warning of “significant” punishment if players and coaches continue to physically and verbally abuse officials.
According to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert, Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, wrote, “In recent weeks, however, there have been several suspensions and ejections because of contact with, and conduct toward, our game officials. This is not who we are — as players, as clubs, as the NFL.”
Scott Green, executive director of the NFL Referees Association, issued a statement to the media, “We appreciate the League expressing its concerns to all Clubs about abusive actions, both verbal and physical, toward officials. We would expect that any future actions will be met with appropriate and severe punishment.”
There have been several high-profile ejections this year due to fights and fouls against officials. In some of the fights, the officials have ejected players for shoving officials to the ground. Side judge Laird Hayes hurt his ribs when Gabe Jackson shoved Hayes out of the way to participate in a fight. Jackson was ejected but not suspended. Sources tell Football Zebras that Hayes and other officials were upset that Jackson was not suspended for what they felt was a deliberate action.
The NFL did suspend Marshawn Lynch for running onto the field and pushing an official out of the way so he could participate in a fight.
Officials have been quick to flag players and coaches who verbally abuse officials. Coaches are not immune from the flag either.
Also, there is a growing concern among officials that players are playing through officials to get to a play. Officials do their best to get out of the way, and sometimes things happen where they get knocked down. But, it is very dangerous for players to knock an official down in order to get to a play or a fight. Browns offensive tackle Shon Coleman was fined $30,387 for a hit to umpire Jeff Rice (below), although there was no flag since the crew’s attention was on a loose ball. Coleman says that he was trying to dodge Rice, but players need to be more responsible.
Football is a violent and emotional game. It is hard sometimes to turn the switch off after the whistle. Officials are taught to diffuse situations. But when players insist on verbally abusing and physically contacting officials to argue or manhandling an official out of the way during a fight, the flag comes out. While it may look amusing or harmless on video, the officials do not have padding or helmets to protect them
We’ll see if the teams take the NFL memo to heart.