Polamalu cell-phone appeal opens a can of worms


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.

38 responses to “Polamalu cell-phone appeal opens a can of worms

  1. Easy solution. Allow NO electronic devices on the sidelines and said player give an asst his wife’s cell number and get said asst to run inside the locker room to make the call and calm any fears a relative may have.

  2. This is an excellent and insightful post. This seems quite right to me, that there now will be a spate of players running to their cell phones during games, getting fined, and then appealing that decision using some elaborate excuse to avoid the fine. Clearly this would be worth the trouble of making a phone call during a game for any NFL player. The NFL needs to get on this at once. What a terrible mess the NFL now finds itself in.

  3. Didn’t they just change the rule to allow a sideline phone to be used for this AFTER the Polamalu issue? Using that, the considered this an example and an issue that should never happen again, and if it does, the use of a personal phone when a team phone is available for the same thing is different than Troy’s using a personal phone because no other method was available.

  4. Why can’t they just have an on field phone for this use and keep the cell phone ban?

    That seems clear cut to me. No personal electronic devices…

  5. hey look. this is easy. if a guy is sitting on the bench without medical personnel around, he is obviously not in danger! if he had gone directly to the locker room like the rule states for those that have a concussion to do, he could have called her from there. this may have been a pr move, but it was stupid and starts all sorts of problems

  6. It’s the way the system is supposed to work. Other appeals have been successful, why is this one going to open a can of worms. I think the only thing this caused is fans will now know that the appeals process can be successful. I think most people (excluding the Steelers Haters, of course) agreed that the fine was wrong. However, I think it should have been done exactly as it was. Fine levied, appealed, overturned.
    That is the checks and balances of the system, and to say a successful appeal messes things up is ridiculous at best. A successful appeal confirms that the system is working.

  7. What’s a dog-at-my homework excuse? Did he deficate on it….how you ever became a writer is beyond me, shoulda stuck with being a lawyer

  8. so make the rule that a player can only use the phone if they have been examined by team doctors on the sideline.

  9. What? There is not one, single normal’ phone in the entire stadium? They HAVE TO use their own, personal cell phone to contact a loved one? The league can still disallow use of a personal phone, no matter the situation if they allow players access to good, ol’ fashion hard-line phone. It’s not rocket science.

  10. Why not have the team physician make calls to players wives, family, etc, at the players request, after injuries? Now precedent is set here… here comes the cellphone-after-injury-is-ok era. When you can say “I had to tell my family I was ok” then what can anyone say to you? It’s the most important thing in the world for a family member waiting on pins and needles after watching a loved one get injured to know they are ok, if possible. And it is possible, without allowing players to use phones during the game, which I guess is important to the NFL since they have a bright line rule about it. That bright line is trashed now though.

    Good thing there are no players in the league that will try to push the envelope and take advantage of this…lol

  11. the appeals process works? how can it work when the process of handing out fines is in such disarray?

    $10,000 for using your phone on the sidelines but only $5,000 for hitting the QB or wearing the wrong color shoes. If there was actually a legitimate process for fining players, we wouldn’t have to worry so much about the appeals process.

  12. Only lawyers and scam artists would see a potential can of worms here. The league handled it right. A player broke the rule and was punished for the sake of discipline and respect for the rules. The appeal focused on the extenuating circumstances and reversed the fine by applying common sense to a rule that must be blanket enforced to have any effect. That is how it should work. Players usually appeal fines so the league hears ridiculous excuses quite often.

    As for the ability to contact family, do it from the locker room. If a player remains on the sidelines the family can assume he isn’t gravely injured.

  13. For about the millionth time, it was not HIS personal phone. He borrowed it from a trainer! There is a big difference between bringing your own phone to the field to tweet, text or call whoever when you are not on the field and borrowing a phone when you’ve been removed from the game due to injury.

    Would it have been more of an issue if he’d left the sideline and walked up to the first level concourse and used a pay phone (if they still exist) or borrowed a fan’s phone & stepped into the tunnel?

    This is a stupid issue caused by an increasingly stupid league.

  14. What’s the problem with using a cell phone on the sidelines? The NFL doesn’t want their viewers to see the players apparently involved in something other than the game.

    The simple solution here is not to ban electronic devices, but rather to make a available a private area on the sidelines, where players can either make an important phone call, or relieve themselves (like the Jags kicker) without being caught by the cameras.

    A large handicap construction site port-a-potty would seem to do the trick. Put on on each sideline and voila…no more problems taking a call or a whizz on the sidelines and getting caught by the TV cameras.

  15. God-del and his henchman continue to show so much willy nilly actions in their decesion making. They must throw darts at a tart board to make their decesions.

  16. Polomalu calling his wife on the sidelines. The San Diego kicker peeing on the sidelines. Sanchez eating a hot dog on the sidelines last year. Did someone outlaw going back into the locker room during the game?

  17. opbilly
    if he had gone directly to the locker room like the rule states for those that have a concussion to do

    Please show me the rule that states what you are claiming above?

  18. uvmcatamounts says:
    Jan 13, 2012 9:43 AM
    Ah, the old “dog-at-my-homework” excuse.

    You don’t really expect PFT to proofread their posts do you? That’s about as naive as thinking coaches/GM’s etc tell the truth when making public statements.

  19. watching the game on tv and finding out her husband is fine that way should have been enough. he is not in the emergency room, he is on the sideline.

    the appeal for the fine should have been denied

  20. Even considering the typo, I don’t get the connection between this and “The dog ate my homework.”

    Troy, you are being fined for using a cell phone during a game. What is your defense?

    The dog ate my cell phone.

    Why am I not able to connect the dots here?

  21. There’s no can of worms here. They have a rule to keep guys from making calls but, as this case demonstrated, there will be rare times where extenuating circumstances result in the punishment being waived. Sensible, simple and fair.

    If the guy didn’t just get helped off the field, I assure you he’s not going to successfully use the “But I was calling my wife to let her know I was okay” excuse.

  22. Thats a stupid post.

    It was a situation where the TV folks were telling viewers (and family members) of a serious injury and TV showed visual evidence supporting that claim.

    One can argue that THOSE players who leave the game with such an injury can call (but in the clubhouse please!) but its a ridiculous stretch to say it opens the doors for everyone.

    In other words, is Stevie Johnson calls mom from a sideline cell and asks if she saw his last TD catch then expect a $10K fine. And expect it to stick.

  23. They could have avoided the whole issue and let Troy use a bluetooth. No way anyone would have seen it and if the camera showed him “talking to himself” they would have thought it was part of the concussion injury.

  24. what is the policy regarding concussions in the NFL? Basically the rules say, if a team suspects that a player has a concussion, he is to immediately be removed from the game. He will then take a “baseline” test on the sideline which requires him to answer various questions he answered prior to the start of the season.

    Do you think the Steelers are breaking the concussion rules?

    YesNoPushing it.Submit Votevote to see results


    from nfl.com

    If the team doctor believes that the player has a concussion, he is to be removed from the sideline, and must go to the locker room. If this happens, then the player is not permitted to return to action, practice or game, until cleared by an independent neurologist.

  25. I would say that about 95% of employers frown on employees using cell phones to make personal calls while at work. How is the NFL different? I mean, it’s not like he was in real danger. There were medical staff around. Think about the firefighters, soldiers, and policemen who put their lives on the line everyday. Are they going to stop in the middle of what they are doing to call the wife? “Hey Honey, just putting out this fire and rescuing some people. Don’t worry I am fine. Sure, I will pick up some milk on the way home.”
    Bottom line. Just because you are a superstar athlete doesn’t mean you get special treatment.

  26. Mike, please stop.

    If it’s some nitpickey nonsense like a player calling his wife following a devastating hit, yeah, the fine may be reversed. But if Roger is trying to make a point, the fine won’t be reversed no matter what the film shows and no matter what the rules say. That’s been proved repeatedly over the last two years.

    Pretending the emperor is clothed when we all see his butt hanging out does nothing for your credibility.

  27. How is the league going to handle inevitable situation when a player Tweets or Facebooks his status? After all, he’ll argue, his family, friends, baby mamas, posses, entourages, and supporters/fans are all concerned about his health and this is the best way to let everyone his status.

  28. A couple of points:

    Where did he get the cell? Fine THAT guy.

    Whether you do or don’t experience a concussion, you are pretty much set up by this precedent/excuse. I.E., “I was calling my wife to tell her I was fine” OR “I don’t remember calling anyone, I was experiencing concussion-like symptoms…”

  29. granadafan says:
    How is the league going to handle inevitable situation when a player Tweets or Facebooks his status? After all, he’ll argue, his family, friends, baby mamas, posses, entourages, and supporters/fans are all concerned about his health and this is the best way to let everyone his status.

    I can’t answer your questions, but I’m definitely happy that you and people like you waste time worrying about this stuff.

  30. Sorry about all you “The Dog Ate My Homework” fans but……………. does anyone care that Mr. Polomalu called his wife via cell phone to tell her that, despite leaving a game with “concussion-like symptoms,” he was actually fine………in order to communicate to her that he left the game with “concussion-like symptoms,” yet nevertheless was fine.

    Nobody ate anyone’s homework. Mr. Polomalu did a reasonable, in fact, kind act. Period.

    Translated – for the obtuse – if someone lied about his homework, deal with HIM. Mr. Polomalu behaved reasonably, truthfully and, in fact, nobly.

    Lew Pringle

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