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Disciplinary Action

Tomlin sanction likely to come Monday



tomlin jonesSteelers coach Mike Tomlin is not the first coach who lost his place on the sideline and wandered into restricted sideline space. At least three other instances occurred this season: one that resulted in a sideline warning for the Raiders, one that resulted in a penalty for the Raiders in the same game, and a third against a Washington assistant coach on a Cowboys touchdown run that was penalized on the ensuing kickoff.

Tomlin also had a foot on the field, and scurried out of the way when Ravens returner Jacoby Jones came barreling behind Tomlin. When viewed in slow motion, it appears that Tomlin placed himself further into Jones’s way — some say, deliberately. It is hard to tell what someone’s motives are, but Tomlin would have to be absolutely foolish to deliberately place himself, unpadded, in the headlights of an oncoming, fully-padded, full-speed runner who has no reason to avoid the opposing coach.

More towards a deliberate act would be the sideline trip executed by New York Jets trainer Sal Alosi. Being surrounded by padded players, Alosi was able to trip a Dolphins punt coverage player. This, on its face, was a deliberate act. Alosi, a lower-tier assistant coach, was fined $25,000 and suspended for the remainder of the season. The Jets were fined $100,000.

The question still lingers: why was this not a penalty? Field judge Dave Meslow could have flagged Tomlin, but in his discretion, Meslow obviously felt that the coach did not interfere with him. He could not have possibly seen Tomlin on the field, because Meslow is watching the ball carrier, not the coach’s feet. Ron Marinucci is the line judge, who would have been trailing the play by at least 20 yards (possibly more because of the long runback). Again, the focus is on the field, so it is understandable that Marinucci also did not see Tomlin’s left foot was on the field.

It is likely that the two covering officials will not get “dinged” (marked as an incorrect call in the grading which helps determine playoff assignments) because of the non-call because of those factors. However, it is possible that Meslow might be marked down on Tomlin being in the white border unpenalized, because Meslow could have observed that easily, and the restricted sideline area is a point of emphasis this year.

Although my initial reaction was this would not result in a fine, it now seems likely that Tomlin will be fined as early as Monday afternoon. What punishment do you think Tomlin will receive, if any? Sound off in this week’s poll.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)