There was a fair amount of criticism of the officiating crew that flagged an unsportsmanlike conduct foul on Keanu Neal as the Falcons safety was writhing on the turf in pain. There were varying accounts that Neal removed his helmet, but an injured player may remove his helmet legally. Reports emerged from the stadium that Neal actually threw his helmet. Still, there were many, including Neal’s coach Dan Quinn, that said discretion over the injury should override the technicality of the unsportsmanlike conduct foul.
CBS did not show the incident in its replays and the All-22 angle had already zoomed in to the spot of the incompletion when Neal was down. Now, a new angle has emerged.
Fox Sports rules analyst Mike Pereira tweeted a video that was actually on the league’s officiating portal which shows Neal barely missed hitting Colts tight end Eric Ebron. His helmet eventually rolls out of bounds at the 5-yard line, when it was launched about 8 yards from the sideline in the end zone. Despite almost being hit, Ebron was defending Neal in postgame comments, and thought there should not have been a foul.
The new angle that emerged is part of the replay system’s new “All-29” angle that we reported is part of an experiment this season. Three fixed cameras are positioned to capture about a third of the field with overlap. The recording from the All-29 — which includes 7 officials with the 22 players — is not available as part of the NFL Gamepass package and is not used outside of the replay operation.
Neal is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
Unfortunately, officials have to set aside the compassion for the injury, because Neal did create a dangerous situation. Had he not been carted off the field, he very likely would have been ejected. As harsh as it may seem, the league cannot give a pass in this situation.