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.