In a tweet issued immediately after last night’s memorable Fail Mary counterweight game, NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino defended the facemask foul by saying an official “is going to make that call almost every time.”
In an appearance on NFL Network after the game, Blandino strongly suggested that, even if replay review were available to overturn the ruling on the field, it may not have been reversed.
“It’s a close play, but even looking at the replay, the hand is up near the mask, the finger looks like it gets caught in the mask and the head gets turned,” Blandino said. “So I’m not convinced it wasn’t a facemask even looking at the replay, but live at full speed the referee is going to see that hand at the mask and the head turn and he’s going to make that call every time.”
Blandino also was asked whether the call, which by rule is not subject to replay review, could have gone either way.
“You know, it’s one that it’s really close and so we made the call,” Blandino said. “I think when you watch the play live I was just like everybody else. You thought, ‘That’s a facemask,’ and then you see the replay and it’s a lot closer than it initially seemed. But again, hand up near the mask, finger caught in the bottom bar and the head does turn.”
He’s right about what he saw, but the explanation still overlooks the clear language of the rule, along with a critical “note” that applies particularly to this case.
The rule: “No player shall grasp and control, twist, turn, push, or pull the facemask of an opponent in any direction.”
The note: “If a player grasps an opponent’s facemask, he must immediately release it. If he does not immediately release it and controls his opponent, it is a foul.”
That language has yet to be quoted by the NFL or anyone connected to it. And perhaps for good reason. At the very most, Devin Taylor grasped the facemask with his thumb and immediately released it. Under the rule as written, that’s not a foul — regardless of whether the officials would make that call “almost every time” or “every time.”