Cowboys defensive lineman Cedric Thornton avoided a flag for whacking Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford in the head last Thursday night. Thornton also has avoided a fine.
Per the NFL, Thornton was not financially penalized for his unpenalized instance of roughing the passer on the two-point try that would have forced overtime.
It’s hard to know with any uncertainty what a decision to not fine a player means. Does it reflect a belief that the blow to the head was not forcible and thus not a penalty? Or was it possibly forcible enough for a flag but not for a fine?
Regardless, the decision not to fine Thornton keeps the NFL from implicitly admitting that referee Tony Corrente got it wrong last Thursday night. And it seems in recent weeks that the league has made a shift, deliberate or otherwise, away from openly acknowledging officiating errors. (Indeed, the Week 13 media video from senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino addresses two plays from the Cowboys-Vikings game, but make no mention of the missed call on the fateful two-point conversion.)
On one hand, the transparency is admirable. On the other hand, it’s troubling — to the extent that the NFL is wallowing in a slop of flaws that it’s doing little to correct, either by using full-time officials, enhanced replay review, or a video official who would bridge the gap in real time between what seven officials don’t see on the field and what millions watching at home do.