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Officials hate to miss cheap shots and unsportsmanlike acts

Fortunately, most flagrant actions do not escape cameras

The NFL most recently handed out two punishments for flagrant acts that were not flagged on the field.   Ndamukong Suh was fined $70,000 (initially suspended one game but overturned on appeal, but don’t get me started on that) for stepping on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (30 second mark of this video).   One week before, the NFL suspended the Lions’ Dominic Railoa one game for stomping on the Chicago Bears’ Ego Ferguson (video).   Neither Railoa or Suh were flagged on the field which, I’m sure, is something that bugs the officials.

There are only 14 eyes that can watch 22 players spread out over 100 yards of a football field.   The officials are bound to miss something.   And don’t think the players aren’t aware of the officials’ mechanics and don’t think they don’t know when the officials’ attention is turned elsewhere.

Veteran players like Railoa and Suh know when the official trains his eyes up field to follow the action.   That is the time they try to get away with an unsportsmanlike act.   Veteran players also know when they are on one side of the pile and the officials are on the other side of the pile.   That is the time to “accidentally” step on a player, elbow them in the groin, or poke them in the eye.   Officials hate to miss these calls for two reasons.   First, the act is a gross violation of the rules and runs contrary to the spirit of the game.   Second, those acts inflame the opposing team which leads to retaliation which leads to fights.

Fortunately at the NFL and NCAA levels, there are several cameras trained on all areas of the field.   Those cameras rarely miss the action, which means if the player manages to get away with it on the field, they will not get away with it after the game, when the league hands out a fine or suspension.   Unfortunately at the small college and high school level, there are very few cameras that can catch the off-ball flagrant acts.

Players like Railoa and Suh can ruin a game for football officials at all levels.   Officials are taught to keep their “head on a swivel” to search for any trouble.   Unfortunately, sometimes that head swivels away from the action and the trouble-maker players start ruining the game.

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Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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9 thoughts on “Officials hate to miss cheap shots and unsportsmanlike acts

  1. I really don’t thunk Suh did this on purpose. (This time) I think had an official been watching he would have seen the hold too, but whatever on that point. Its hard to believe the official did NOT see it as they tend to keep a close on on the QB even after the play.

    Suh pulled back from the O-lineman holding his jersey…that took his momentum back where he stepped on the ankle, shifted his weight and then pushed back off.

    All without looking back at all.

    I agree with Periera (which is rare) that his reputation carried more weight than the actual act.

  2. Your premise about the Suh incident is flawed. The official stated publically that he saw the incident in real time and did not think that it was done on purpose. Pierra also went on the record to state that if it wasn’t Suh or it wasn’t Rodgers, no fine would have been imposed. So, you think that you can know more than the official watching it in real-time?

  3. I’ve seen too many a-hole cheap shots against too many “bad” QBs to think that officials actually “hate” missing calls like this. In practice, there’s a nuance to when calls are made (whether there should be or not) and part of the math is whether the affected player is a “star QB” or a “joke QB.”

    I’m with Periera on this one. If this wasn’t Rodgers and Suh, this wouldn’t merit a second look from the league.

    But what do I know? I’m a Jets fan. Punching my quarterback in the face isn’t an ejectable offense.

  4. Given his history, Suh gets no presumption on innocence. He’s so good at cheap-shotting, he can do it and disguise his intent very effectively. He his ejection should have been upheld, but the NFL and its arbiters of late have shown a severe lack of testicular fortitude.

  5. He purposely not only stepped on Rodgers, he did it with both feet. Not sure what the NFL reasoning for reducing the suspension is?

  6. Wait a second…if Suh accidently stepped on Rodgers as the posters above believe, why didn’t he look back to see what he had stepped on? The football field is not a forest with rocks and branches. He might have stepped on a teammate for all he knew and injured him. Yet he never looked back. Let’s not spin this as an accident. He did not act in that manner.

  7. “Not caring” is not equivalent to “on purpose”. Players get stepped on often on the field of play.

    Did he know it was Rodgers? Probably since that was the guy he was headed toward (while being held, I may add).

    Did he deliberately step on his leg? Don’t know…but I doubt it since he never looked before he stepped.

  8. It Is a judgment call, and since the official saw it, fine.

    I would ask the owners to consider a rule change to take advantage of instant replay in thee incidents. Officials frequently get this call wrong by flagging the “second guy” who retaliated because of a cheap shot.

    Let there be a personal foul “With the Possibility of Ejection” that could be reviewed and get the guy who started it.. or both of them.

    We all know that things can get testy, so give the officials a fighting chance to get it right.

  9. I’m a little late to this party but here goes. I don’t think Suh stepped on Rodgers intentionally. He did however take full advantage of it by not hurrying to get off of him. If you can be suspended for not getting off of a star QB fast enough than they need to fold the league or change the name.

    The history of Suh cheap shots is laughable at best so let’s address it.

    1. The Dietrich-Smith stomp- dirty as hell and worthy of the punishment he received
    2. The chop block- a play that would have been legal the year prior in the first game of the season. No other player in the league would have been fined.
    3. The Cutler hit. If it’s illegal to shove a guy in the back than once again, fold the league.
    4. The Schaub “kick”. Seriously? Did he learn that from Keanue Reeves? He’s not Neo. Just stop.

    He’s no choir boy but he’s not the filthy villain that he’s been made out to be. He plays a violent brand of football.

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