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NFL: Intent not a factor in Tomlin discipline

Mike Tomlin AP

The six-figure fine imposed by the NFL on Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, along with the lingering possibility that a draft pick will be forfeited or modified, leave open a fairly important question.

Does the NFL believe Tomlin meant to do it?

“Intent is not a factor in discipline because it cannot be determined,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT via email.  “An individual is fined for an action that is a violation.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean the NFL would have applied the same penalty if the league believed Tomlin intended to step toward (and onto) the field of play after Ravens receiver Jacoby Jones broke free from the Steelers’ kickoff coverage.  It only means that the league couldn’t (or didn’t try to) discern intent.

Tomlin strongly denied that he meant to step from the middle of the white sideline stripe to the edge of the field, with one field in the field itself.  Given his track record, Tomlin received the benefit of the doubt.

Still, the available video evidence allows reasonable minds to differ on whether, in the heat of the moment and with only a flicker of intent, Tomlin opted to make himself into a distraction/obstacle for Jones.

From the league’s perspective, that wasn’t enough to infer that Tomlin did it on purpose.  If the league had come to that conclusion, chances are the discipline would have been far more significant.

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53 Responses to “NFL: Intent not a factor in Tomlin discipline”
  1. dmartin17 says: Dec 4, 2013 5:53 PM

    Or lack of discipline….

  2. jetsjetsjetsnow says: Dec 4, 2013 6:02 PM

    Well I guess the Jets strength coach Alosi should have just said he was demonstrating squat thrusting technique to the team on the sidelines when the Miami player just ran into his knee… Or his hammy just so happened to act up at that very moment… Give him the benefit of the doubt…

    Given the outcome here shows just how badly he played that hand…lol

  3. noburghfan says: Dec 4, 2013 6:06 PM

    If they glanced at the video i viewed , there would be no doubt , of intent !

  4. rwhite84 says: Dec 4, 2013 6:11 PM

    I’m surprised Suh didn’t get fined for Tomlin’s actions.

  5. 461deep says: Dec 4, 2013 6:13 PM

    Seems like coach clearly knew he was on field as he glanced back before jumping out of the way. NFL not mind readers so intent hard to determine on a single fast moving play where Tomlin’s actions were not fully discovered until after the play via replay. Good call by League on this one.

  6. thejabronisayz says: Dec 4, 2013 6:15 PM

    Well, it should have been.

  7. reed20fence says: Dec 4, 2013 6:17 PM

    The danger of this being taken lightly is something the Steelers and their fans should be worried about as a perrenial playoff contender themselves.

    The logic of teams settling for penalties is just a part of the game. Teams stopped midfield often deliberately take delay of game penalties to give their punter an extra five-yards to angle a kick and pin the opponent deep.

    If all you get for getting a 12th or 13th or more person in front of a ball carrier illegally is a 100k fine in a multi-billion dollar business where playoff games are worth millions to franchises, what incentive is there for teams not to break the rules?

    The penalty has to be bigger, and I believe the NFl is serious about draft implications.

  8. Moudabo says: Dec 4, 2013 6:22 PM

    Total overreaction by the league for what should have been a 15 yd penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

    Has the NFL lost any semblance of rationality?

  9. thestrategyexpert says: Dec 4, 2013 6:22 PM

    I’m more interested in knowing the final spot of the ball at the outcome of the entire play. Everything else in-between is just discussion banter.

    The NFL is 2-putting their way to a resolution. The 1st putt is fairly irrelevant, only the analysis of the 2nd putt matters. It either goes in because it’s an impossible miss, or holy moly did you see that?

  10. ravensterps says: Dec 4, 2013 6:22 PM

    I guess Tomlin was smart to lie then.

    Anyone with two eyes and a brain can see that he made an intentional step to the right the instant that the crowd started cheering. Tomlin then did his best to look inconspicuous while staring over his shoulder waiting for the play to get close before he stuck his foot further on the field and jumped out of the way.

    And, c’mon, that grin? GUILTY. At least the court of public opinion got this one right.

  11. coolrelaxx says: Dec 4, 2013 6:25 PM

    Classy guy … DUMB MISTAKE!

  12. pjamdragon says: Dec 4, 2013 6:29 PM

    bushleague

  13. gtodriver says: Dec 4, 2013 6:30 PM

    I’m no Steeler fan, so I’m not an apologist for either the team or the coach…

    I just don’t believe it was intentional.

    But I love the way that Tomlin just accepted the fact that he did violate the rules and accepted the punishment without question.

    Wish some players would do likewise.

  14. scrp2 says: Dec 4, 2013 6:30 PM

    I think Greg Aiello is side-stepping the question here.

  15. footballfan01 says: Dec 4, 2013 6:31 PM

    So you’re telling me NFL rules are strict liability and don’t require specific intent to lose draft picks? That’s not good for anyone.

  16. kremis says: Dec 4, 2013 6:31 PM

    On the bright side, In addition to the fine the NFL named Tomlin AFC special teams player of the week for his touchdown saving move against the Ravens!

  17. surfinbird1 says: Dec 4, 2013 6:35 PM

    Footgate!!

  18. schmokes says: Dec 4, 2013 6:39 PM

    If intent doesn’t matter why doesn’t Tomlin just man up and accept responsibility for making a poor decision?

  19. boogymanoflamancha says: Dec 4, 2013 6:47 PM

    The cat that just ate the canary smile after the incident sure makes it look like it was intended

  20. ratsfoiledagain says: Dec 4, 2013 6:50 PM

    Intent should have everything to do with this.

    There’s a big difference between accidental, and on purpose.

    Tomlin knew full well what he was doing, and the additional discipline should applied accordingly.

  21. lbijake says: Dec 4, 2013 6:52 PM

    Coach Bill of the Pats doesn’t like cheats. Should have lost a draft pick.

  22. blackngold4life says: Dec 4, 2013 7:09 PM

    No intent..No draft picks right??

  23. mark0226 says: Dec 4, 2013 7:22 PM

    Does intent matter on face mask penalties or holding or blow to the head? Do those generate larger penalties if the defender intended the action? No, the penalty is based on the action, not the intent.

  24. posmoo says: Dec 4, 2013 7:24 PM

    Oh NFl, be honest for once. Intent is always a factor. It’s why Suh and Mike griffin get singled out for harsher punishment, because repeated violations show a pattern, and a pattern can show intent.
    You are being harsh here because the video makes this look completely intentional.

  25. jlpats says: Dec 4, 2013 7:40 PM

    As a pats fan I’m saddened the steelers chances of making the playoffs look real slim. I would have love to see the pats play the steelers in the playoffs so I could see the belichick and Brady put another 55 points on that vaunted steeler defense.

  26. olddirtytruth says: Dec 4, 2013 7:50 PM

    I read that Tomlin is one of the highest paid NFL coaches, making 5.75 MILLION Dollars a year. 100k is chump change to this dude, he will still get 5.65 million dollars this season. Nice slap on the wrist NFL, Tomlin is still laughing.

  27. bert1913 says: Dec 4, 2013 8:18 PM

    tomlin stuck his foot onto the field, then jumped back

  28. Joemontanaflacco says: Dec 4, 2013 8:31 PM

    The Ravens/Steelers rivalry is forever tainted. Every time a Steelers fan brags about a past win, we will have to go back and review the tape to see where everyone was standing. Obviously, this team will stop at nothing to win. They just got caught this time.

  29. charger383 says: Dec 4, 2013 8:40 PM

    Total under reaction by NFL. Fine should have been $500,000 on Tomlin and $1,000,000 on Steelers and instead of draft pick $20,000,000 on salary cap

  30. FoozieGrooler says: Dec 4, 2013 8:47 PM

    Tomlin admitted he was wrong.

    Which is more than Belichick ever did.

  31. charger383 says: Dec 4, 2013 9:33 PM

    Additional penalty is Steelers will have to play early morning games in Loundon

  32. nebster21 says: Dec 4, 2013 9:52 PM

    NFL is all but admitting that they believe Tomlin intended on disrupting the play.

  33. Deb says: Dec 4, 2013 10:14 PM

    Forget the intent. I’m not sure Tomlin knows why he did what he did. But it was inexcusable. So punish him to the max. Fine him $200,000. Suspend him for the rest of the season. I don’t care.

    But do not punish the team by docking draft picks. The team had nothing to do with this. No one was injured and it did not impact the outcome of the game. Punishing the team for the behavior of one idiot is wrong.

  34. doctorrustbelt says: Dec 4, 2013 11:12 PM

    Everyone knows that dirtbag meant to do it.

  35. lawboy2000 says: Dec 5, 2013 8:33 AM

    Where is the video of Cowher starting to run down the sidelines like he wanted to make a tackle when the Jaguars were returning a blocked FG for a TD to close out a win over the Steelers?

  36. myeaglescantwin says: Dec 5, 2013 9:04 AM

    if you watch the video.

    the original side step that brought him to the edge of the field looks pretty intentional.

  37. blackngold4life says: Dec 5, 2013 1:13 PM

    What’s done is done..it’s a irrelevant topic now

  38. Deb says: Dec 5, 2013 1:19 PM

    lawboy2000 says:

    Where is the video of Cowher starting to run down the sidelines like he wanted to make a tackle when the Jaguars were returning a blocked FG for a TD to close out a win over the Steelers?

    ———————————————
    That was hilarious. Of course, Cowher didn’t impede the play. But the primary reason that incident wasn’t a cause for fines and loss of draft picks is that Goodell wasn’t commissioner in 1997.

  39. Tyler says: Dec 5, 2013 1:48 PM

    charger383 says:

    Total under reaction by NFL. Fine should have been $500,000 on Tomlin and $1,000,000 on Steelers and instead of draft pick $20,000,000 on salary cap

    —————————————————-

    You can’t possibly be serious.

    What you’re saying is this is 2-3 times more egregious than the Saints bounty scandal?

    The five most heavily fined teams in 2012 were the Ravens, Patrios, Vikings, Broncos, and Panthers (in that order).

    Their combined total? $993k.

    Not a Steelers fan but come on.

  40. crownofthehelmet says: Dec 5, 2013 2:00 PM

    jmf says:

    The Ravens/Steelers rivalry is forever tainted. Every time a Steelers fan brags about a past win, we will have to go back and review the tape to see where everyone was standing.
    ——————————————–
    Most of the time they can be seen standing on the Raven’s necks.

  41. scmems07 says: Dec 5, 2013 2:10 PM

    Side story, Jones is filmed on the sideline explaining his case that tomlin was in his way and called him the same word that Riley Cooper got in trouble for using yet the networks and media haven’t even acknowledged it. Funny to me

  42. crownofthehelmet says: Dec 5, 2013 2:17 PM

    charger383 says:

    Total under reaction by NFL. Fine should have been $500,000 on Tomlin and $1,000,000 on Steelers and instead of draft pick $20,000,000 on salary cap
    ————————————————-
    Steelers must play the Chargers next year. Praying already.

  43. enoughofthatalready says: Dec 5, 2013 2:43 PM

    I guess Tomlin was smart to lie then.

    Anyone with two eyes and a brain can see that he made an intentional step to the right the instant that the crowd started cheering. Tomlin then did his best to look inconspicuous while staring over his shoulder waiting for the play to get close before he stuck his foot further on the field and jumped out of the way.

    And, c’mon, that grin? GUILTY. At least the court of public opinion got this one right.
    -
    You are wrong on many accounts. Tomlin stepped right at the exact moment that Jones broke to the left. The game is so fast, there is no way that Tomlin was able to recognize that Jones was coming his way. Tomlin did not glance back until Jones was right near his hip. Tomlin’s deer in the headlights reaction proves that we was surprised that Jones was there. The grin that you are talking about was not a grin that happened right after the play. NBC went to commercial immediately after. The replay of the grin was a reaction of Tomlin to the stadium replaying the kick 14 times on the jumbotron.

  44. ydousuk says: Dec 5, 2013 2:43 PM

    Deb says:Dec 4, 2013 10:14 PM

    Forget the intent. I’m not sure Tomlin knows why he did what he did. But it was inexcusable. So punish him to the max. Fine him $200,000. Suspend him for the rest of the season. I don’t care.

    But do not punish the team by docking draft picks. The team had nothing to do with this. No one was injured and it did not impact the outcome of the game. Punishing the team for the behavior of one idiot is wrong
    ———————————————————-
    The team hired Tomlin to represent the team. Tomlin’s actions are the team’s responsibility.

    Seems pretty simple to me………….

  45. enoughofthatalready says: Dec 5, 2013 2:46 PM

    Tomlin may not be a great coach, but he has always been the utmost professional when it comes to talking about opposing teams, opposing fans, refs, etc. He would not jeopardize everything by intentionally doing something that stupid. It was a mistake, yes he should have been fined, but the $ amount is ridiculous. A Jets coach was fined $25,000 for intentionally tripping a Dolphins player out of bounds a few years ago and there was no talk of draft picks. If Harbaugh did this, Ravens fans would say how field savvy he is.

  46. enoughofthatalready says: Dec 5, 2013 2:55 PM

    None of you have obviously ever been on a football sideline during a kickoff play. The play is so fast and the action is so frantic, there is no way that Tomlin, standing 60 yards downfield from where Jones broke through, could have possibly been aware that Jones was going to run his way, especially while facing with his back to the play. Should have been a $15,000 fine and then move on with a letter from the league to all coaches that future potential interference with plays will result with bigger fines, suspension, etc. The idea of taking away draft picks is ridiculous. The league is going downhill fast. I guess when coaches run on the field to call timeouts or run out to throw challenge flags, they should be fined also because there are cases where they come close to impeding when a play starts simultaneously.

  47. enoughofthatalready says: Dec 5, 2013 2:57 PM

    kremis says:
    Dec 4, 2013 6:31 PM
    On the bright side, In addition to the fine the NFL named Tomlin AFC special teams player of the week for his touchdown saving move against the Ravens!
    -
    Wrong. Allen was on the heels of Jones when it happened. There was barely a flitter to Jones’ path. He may have gained an extra 5 -10 yards. Considering the Ravens’ poor percentage of TDs in that game, the result would have been the same.

  48. crownofthehelmet says: Dec 5, 2013 3:14 PM

    kremis, that was actually funny.

  49. Deb says: Dec 5, 2013 5:24 PM

    @ydousuck …

    The Ravens hired Terrell Suggs to represent the team. Suggs deliberately slammed Ben Roethlisberger in the face, breaking his nose. Seems pretty simple to me.

    But no flag was thrown and no draft picks were taken.

    We could to this all day with players and coaches all over the league. The bottom line is that teams aren’t penalized for noninstitutional behavior.

  50. zibet says: Dec 5, 2013 8:58 PM

    I think Tomlin would easily pay $100k per game to get a few close wins.

    just for kicks -Same penalty as streakers on the field. night in the drunk tank

  51. ydousuk says: Dec 5, 2013 9:27 PM

    Deb says:Dec 5, 2013 5:24 PM

    @ydousuck …

    The Ravens hired Terrell Suggs to represent the team. Suggs deliberately slammed Ben Roethlisberger in the face, breaking his nose. Seems pretty simple to me.

    But no flag was thrown and no draft picks were taken.

    We could to this all day with players and coaches all over the league. The bottom line is that teams aren’t penalized for noninstitutional behavior
    ———————————————————-
    Deb, that comparision is apple and oranges. As I have said before, I am not a fan of either team. Comparing how two players interact during the game, is quite different from the Head Coach of one of the teams possibly having an effect on the outcome of the game by using his body, (on purpose or not) to disrupt a play.

    If you use a comparision using another coach as your example then there would be some relevance to your argument.

    Just saying…………

  52. koenig61 says: Dec 5, 2013 10:15 PM

    I would still like a good explanation why there wasn’t a penalty and a fine for those 2 hits to bells head. The league has said many times it doesn’t matter if a defender has intent to hit a QB or receiver around the head or neck area with the helmet, the league has even gone so far as to say if the QB or receiver moves, then the defender must still adjust and avoid contact with the helmet around the neck or head. Of course those statements don’t jibe too well with what happened to Leveon Bell. Here is what the league said about that hit, “While the hit occurred outside the tackle box and with the top of Smith’s helmet, he didn’t “line up” Bell. So is the league saying smith and upshaw had no “intent” to spear bell? But wait intent doesn’t matter in these H2H hits. So there you go. The old double standard talk out of the side of your mouth about safety, but allow two defenders spear a runner from both sides, and claim there wasn’t intent. Bell was defenseless and was speared.

  53. frank booth says: Dec 6, 2013 12:07 PM

    Watch the video. Bell is dropping his head as he goes for the goal line. The defenders obviously are dropping low to get leverage not only to tackle, but to keep him from crossing the goal line. They collide- there was nothing that the defenders could do to adjust. If Bell was defenseless, then so is every other ball carrier at all times.

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