Tomlin expects NFL to discipline him for interfering with kickoff
By Alan Robinson
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 1:20 p.m.
A repentant Mike Tomlin decided he couldn't sidestep controversy any longer.
With the Steelers coach and possibly his franchise facing stiff punishment from the NFL for his interference during a Ravens kickoff return, Tomlin called his behavior “embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal and a blunder.”
And he used those same words, in various forms, over and over again during an uncommonly candid Tuesday news conference in which he fielded 23 questions over 20 minutes just about what he called his “personal blunder.”
“My actions were below the line,” he said Tuesday.
Tomlin also said he should have been flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for crowding the sideline, forcing Jacoby Jones to change direction. He also said he wouldn't forgive an opposing head coach for doing what he did.
“I understand with my position comes the charge of preserving and protecting the integrity of the game of football,” Tomlin said. “I think probably my biggest error on Thursday night was not realizing that play jeopardized (that) … from a perception standpoint.”
But Tomlin emphasized he did not intentionally interfere with Jones' 73-yard return and, until his two sons told him over the weekend of the controversy he was generating, he had no idea anyone thought that way.
Once he did, he began texting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and he spoke Monday with Goodell and NFL executives Ray Anderson and Merton Hanks as the league began weighing his punishment.
“It's shocking to me that my actions could have or have been perceived in any way intentional in regards to my action on that play,” he said. “The winning of any game is not important to me to jeopardize (the integrity of an NFL game).”
Tomlin also said that if Steelers co-owners Dan and Art Rooney believed he interfered intentionally, “ I wouldn't be sitting at this table talking to you guys.”
Tomlin said he wasn't trying to buy a lighter sentence from the league by being so contrite, but he asked the league to spare the Steelers any punishment.
“I would hope they would understand that the actions were a personal blunder of mine, that they wouldn't penalize the organization in response to it,” he said. “But I also understand, in terms of being the head coach of this organization, there are responsibilities that come with that.”
As part of its investigation, the NFL reviewed how Tomlin watches kickoffs. He said he is “consistent” about watching the plays unfold on the scoreboard, as he did in Baltimore, because he gets a better perspective.
As he first explained following the Steelers' costly 22-20 loss, he “lost my placement,” which caused him to edge onto the field and into Jones' way.
“But I can't make those kinds of mistakes,” he said. “I will accept the consequences of my actions.
“I don't know what a just punishment is,” he said. “I have no idea. There is no nervousness to be honest, with you. I'm not acting in a means to preserve my wallet or my money.”
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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