NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino went on NFL Total Access today to discuss the Duke Johnson fumble in the Browns game and further clarified what counts as taunting stemming from two separate incidents in week 4 (video below).
In the Browns game, running back Duke Johnson fumbled and it was quickly recovered by the Redskins. Line judge Sarah Thomas immediately blew the play dead and signaled that the Redskins recovered the ball despite Johnson standing up out of the pile and holding it above his head. However, Blandino clarified that the continued signaling of possession is for the players safety so that players do not continue to fight for the ball. Turnovers are automatically reviewed and in this case, there was not a clear angle that showed that Johnson recovering the ball. Blandino noted that the ball changing hands between players in the pile is not sufficient evidence to make a ruling.
Host Dan Hellie asked if perhaps the call was made too quickly. Blandino responded:
If they [the officials] have clear evidence that a player has possession, we want to rule immediately because you don’t want an extended scrum where players could potentially get injured.
Blandino did state that the while the call looked bad due to Johnson holding the ball, Thomas had already ruled possession prior and there was not sufficient evidence to suggest one team or the other had recovered. In that situation, the call stands as called on the field.
Lastly, Blandino clarified a portion of the taunting rule in two situations involving Redskins defensive back Josh Norman and Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. Norman appeared to shoot a fake bow and arrow and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin asked the league for clarification on Brown’s pelvic thrust. Blandino said they were going to send out a tape clarifying the rule but briefly, he mentioned that any act that mimics a violent or sexually suggestive act is treated as unsportsmanlike conduct and officials will flag it.
— NFL Football Ops (@NFLFootballOps) October 5, 2016