MDS pointed out earlier today that Steelers safety Troy Polamalu won the appeal of his $10,000 fine for telling his wife via cell phone that, despite leaving a game with “concussion-like symptoms,” he was fine. The good news is that the ruling demonstrates to folks like Polamalu, who previously bashed the appeal system, that it’s not futile, because the league office doesn’t handle the appeals of fines imposed for in-game infractions.
The bad news is that the NFL will now have to potentially deal with a dog-at-my-homework-style excuse anytime a player is spotted using an electronic device during a game. Regardless of the real reason for violating an otherwise clear NFL rule, the player will be able to claim that he was calling his wife, fiance, girlfriend, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, cousin, son, daughter, and/or any other family member to say that he’s fine, without worrying about eventually having to pay a fine.
That’s why the NFL needs to have a bright-line rule for the use of electronics devices during games. And the league likewise needs to implement a system that will allow players to get immediate word to one or more specific contact persons that the player is OK. (If, of course, he is OK.)
But the bottom line is that the appeal process works, even if the outcome in this case creates a possible mess for the NFL.