In the aftermath of Browns quarterback Jason Campbell absorbing a strike to the facemask without a penalty being called Sunday in a 27-11 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, cornerback William Gay was fined $15,750 for delivering the hit, and Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner and several players said blows to the head should be reviewable.
Referee Terry McAulay missed a roughing-the-passer call when Gay whacked Campbell in the facemask with his left hand, causing Campbell to fumble and smack the back of his helmet on the ground. He immediately left the game with a concussion with 7:46 remaining in the third quarter, and a play after safety Will Allen returned the fumble 49 yards to the Browns’ 4-yard line, the Steelers scored a touchdown to go ahead 20-3 and virtually ensure they would dash Cleveland’s playoff hopes.
Campbell hasn't practiced since, and the Browns (4-7) ruled him out for Sunday when they'll host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9). Brandon Weeden will start in his place.
The NFL announced today that it fined Gay for unnecessarily delivering a forcible blow to Campbell’s head and neck area. But the damage had already been done to the Browns, who would’ve had Campbell’s fumble negated and been granted a first down at the Steelers’ 24 behind 13-3 if the officials had made the proper call.
“I thought he got hit in the facemask right from the beginning and then obviously you see the replay, and it’s really easy to see from all the angles except the one that the referee had – he’s standing behind,” Turner said. “You’d just like someone to come in and help him make that call. The way it’s being emphasized by the league, it should never be missed. And the ones that they’ve made mistakes on is where they’ve gone too far. So this one obviously they didn’t go far enough.”
The play is not reviewable under league rules, but should it be?
Said Turner: “Right now, if you’re talking about the emphasis they’re making on it and the way people are getting fined, it would be something I would think they would look at and consider the possibility of reviewing that.”
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas is among the players who believe the rules need to be revised so such plays can be reviewed. Scoring plays and turnovers are automatically reviewed, but hits to the head cannot even be challenged by coaches.
“I know there's two officials that sit in the booth and are watching the game and it would be nice to have them be able to review those type of plays,” Thomas said. “They're turning out to be as big of a momentum swing, as big of a play in the game, as a turnover or a touchdown and those are automatic because the NFL has said those plays are so important that we need to automatically review them. But a potential 15-yard penalty or a fumble returned for almost a touchdown, that's a humongous play in the game.
“I looked two weeks ago at the play where [San Francisco 49ers linebacker] Ahmad Brooks tackles [New Orleans Saints quarterback] Drew Brees and whether the NFL comes out says that's the right call or not, you would still like to have them at least look at it and have the option to buzz down to the ref and say, 'You missed it' or 'You got it wrong, and it should have been a penalty.' Those plays are happening so quickly, especially the helmet to the head area on receivers and stuff, those plays are happening so fast and it's almost impossible to tell where the receivers getting hit because if he's getting hit in the body or the shoulder his head is going to snap the same way and the difference between a penalty and not a penalty is so small and yet it's such a big play in the game.
“It would be nice to at least have them have the ability from upstairs to buzz down to take another look at it or tell them they missed it or tell them it needs to be changed or whatever.”