Cam Robinson ejection raises questions about conduct in a pile

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The rules generally prohibit players from making physical contact with officials. In some specific situations, however, officials interject themselves into a scrum of flailing bodies. In those circumstances, what should players do?

That’s the obvious question arising from Thursday night’s ejection of Jaguars tackle Cam Robinson.

In the third quarter of the 31-13 Miami win, a loose ball following a fumble by Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew resulted in a pileup. The officials entered the fray in an effort to break things up. Robinson made contact with two different officials. It’s unclear whether he even realized he was doing so.

Look at the video. Dolphins cornerback Jamal Perry is laying across Robinson’s facemask. Robinson shoves Perry away in one motion. Robinson then shoves a second time, pushing away an official’s arm. Next, Robinson pushes the arms of another official away. The second shove seems to trigger the flag, thrown by the official whose arm was shoved away the first time.

“I saw the official jump in there, and the official told me afterwards he jumped on him [while in the pile] and Cam went to push him off him,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said after the game. “He touched the official. That’s what I was told. You can’t touch an official.”

Technically, a player can touch an official. The rules only prohibit “[u]nnecessary physical contact with a game official.” As explained in Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1(e): “Under no circumstance is a player allowed to shove, push, or strike an
official in an offensive, disrespectful, or unsportsmanlike manner.”

The plain language of the rule makes the line less bright than it would appear to be. Here’s the real question: Did Robinson shove an official “in an offensive, disrespectful, or unsportsmanlike manner”?

There’s a certain amount of contact that officials assume when they decide to get directly involved in the disentanglement of bodies. For players who very much want to be disentangled, and who don’t want to be touched or grabbed or whatever by anyone, how are they supposed to instantly know that their effort to work their way free from the pile includes the incidental shoving of an official?

Again, look at the video. Is that “offensive, disrespectful, or unsportsmanlike”?

This may be yet another example of the NFL’s rules not matching the enforcement of the NFL’s rules by NFL officials. Regardless, the rules don’t seem to compel a hair-trigger flag-and-disqualify reaction whenever there’s any contact with an official, especially when it’s not clear that the player even knows he’s contacting an official.

So what should a player do in these circumstances? Going limp is the only safe option as it relates to the rulebook, but that’s hardly the safe option when it comes to the potential exposure to the various things that can and do happen at the bottom of a pile.

10 responses to “Cam Robinson ejection raises questions about conduct in a pile

  1. sure looked to me like Cam shoved the officials head forcefully. The official brushed it off, then he shoved his arm forcefully and that was the last straw. Further, the stripes were right over his face.

    It was the head shove that put him on the tipping point, IMO.

    I would really like to hear the audio….

  2. I’ve been in the middle of many a pile and its absolutely confusing sometimes. However, lying on your back with a ref bending over your face is not confusing. How could he possibly not know what he was doing?

  3. It’s not clear that he knew he had pushed away the arm of the ref he was obviously staring at? That video looks pretty conclusive to me. I’m not a Jags or Cam Robinson hater either. It’s just pretty obvious.

  4. The 3rd shove was the worst. He knew that it was an official.

    That said, I wouldn’t want anyone laying on me either, but the officials were in there for a reason.

    He earned the ejection.

  5. He flails both of his arms vertically off his body twice. The first time you can argue his vision could have been obstructed, but no chance on the second flail of his arms towards the ref at his head. After that, when he flails again at the ref at his feet, there is clear field of vision and the dude knew it was a ref laying across him.

  6. He deserved the ejection. He’s so lucky that the second one didn’t completely know ref of balance. Could you have imagined ref falls face first and gets up bloody. No prob for me because he could clearly see who was above him.

  7. >>>Again, look at the video. Is that “offensive, disrespectful, or unsportsmanlike”?<<<

    Yes! You can debate the first two shoves, but in the third shove, he was clearly looking at the ref and pushed him hard enough to make him lose his balance. That was not only blatant, but disrespectful and unsportsmanlike.

  8. I haven’t ever seen someone start visibly shoving all the officials repeatedly like that in a pile before, because every other player in the league has been composed enough not to do that. Regardless of knowledge or intent you can’t shove an official let alone repeatedly and it was an extremely deserved ejection. Are we just going to start allowing players to shove over referees and then go “oh sorry, thought you were someone else.” They’d be getting their revenge on officials all the time then.

  9. I just love how the announcers didn’t understand the ejection or even see the shoving of the ref who was at the players mid section. Just clueless.

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