CLEVELAND (AP) — The NFL flagged itself for blowing the call on the nasty helmet-to-helmet hit put on Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
The league said Friday that Tampa Bay safety Jordan Whitehead should have penalized for striking Mayfield in the side of the helmet in last Sunday’s 26-23 overtime win. Mayfield was sliding at the end of a 35-yard scramble when he got blasted by Whitehead, who was initially penalized before the officials conferred and decided to pick up the flag — and one against Mayfield for taunting.
First-year referee Shawn Hochuli made the situation worse by incorrectly announcing that Mayfield “was still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head.”
Senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron pointed out several mistakes in a video released by the league.
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“I’ll tell you ahead of time that we had a flag on this play and we incorrectly picked it up after we had a conference by the officials,” Riveron said before showing Mayfield get blasted by Whitehead. “We’re watching the defender as he lowers his head to initiate contact, and he does make contact, so that right there is a foul within itself. No. 2, as we can see the quarterback starts to slide, and even though he slides late, he is still afforded protection from forcible contact to the neck and head area.”
Whitehead is expected to be fined, a person familiar with the league discipline told the AP earlier this week. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because fines are announced Saturday.
The shot on Mayfield was making other reverberations Friday.
Browns coach Hue Jackson said he was “disappointed” with comments made by Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, who felt Mayfield was taunting after he jumped to his feet and walked toward Whitehead. Mayfield admitted telling Whitehead he was going to have to hit him harder to knock him out of the game.
On Thursday, Koetter was asked for his take on the play and intimated Mayfield was equally guilty.
“What they said on the field was it’s a helmet-to-helmet hit and then (Mayfield) got up and taunted our guy, so then they threw the second flag,” Koetter told reporters in Tampa. “Somehow, they worked it out that they were picking up both flags. Where I was on the field, I didn’t see it as a helmet-to-helmet (hit). But when you look at it on tape, it clearly was, and I guess the fallout from that is what it is.”
Jackson was bothered by Koetter’s remarks, and defended Mayfield’s actions after the hit.
“That disappointed me,” he said. “The guy shouldn’t have hit our player in the head, first of all, and, obviously, our guy got up and he tossed the ball to the official. Obviously, the guy was close by, but the bottom line is our guy shouldn’t be getting hit in the head. I don’t care about some taunting foul. We’re talking about our quarterback taking a shot in the head and sliding. I think that’s wrong. Totally wrong.”
Jackson further explained his disappointment with Koetter, arguing that Whitehead’s hit triggered everything.
“The biggest thing that happened was the quarterback got hit in the head,” Jackson said. “Taunting? Does that really matter? I mean, really? That, to me, made no sense.”
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