CLEVELAND (AP) — Baker Mayfield’s head snapped back violently from a nasty hit that seemed illegal and unnecessary.
The officials on the field didn’t think so. The NFL feels otherwise.
Tampa Bay safety Jordan Whitehead is expected to be fined for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Mayfield, a person familiar with league discipline told the Associated Press.
Whitehead struck Mayfield in the fourth quarter of the Buccaneers’ 26-23 overtime win Sunday, as Mayfield was starting to slide at the end of a 35-yard scramble. Whitehead should been flagged for unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct, said the person who spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the league has not commented on calls from last week’s games.
Fines are typically announced on Friday.
After the play, Mayfield popped to his feet and jawed at Whitehead, saying later he wanted to “let the guy know he’s gonna have to hit me a lot harder than that if he wants to affect me.”
The play was initially flagged, but officials conferred and decided not to penalize Whitehead. First-year referee Shawn Hochuli added confusion by announcing to the crowd: “The quarterback is still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head. He had not yet begun his slide. There is therefore no foul.”
The league implemented a “helmet” rule that prohibits players from lowering their heads to deliver a blow, and there has been a greater emphasis placed on protecting quarterbacks.
Following the game, Mayfield said he felt the play should have been flagged.
“There’s a lot of stuff being put on protecting the quarterback, doesn’t seem like the Browns are getting a lot of calls but they can review it and they can say I was a runner but I started my slide, that’s helmet-to-helmet contact. I felt it.”
On Monday, Browns coach Hue Jackson the non-call was “disappointing.”
It’s the most recent questionable call to go against the Browns, who had a potential defensive touchdown against Oakland on Sept. 30 nullified by a quick whistle — a play the league later acknowledged was called incorrectly.
Last week, defensive end Myles Garrett risked a fine by saying he was tired of the Browns not getting calls.
“Do your job just like we need to do our job,” Garrett said. “If it’s holding, call holding. If it’s a false start, false start, whether it’s us or them. … If I get fined, so be it. Something needs to be said. If it keeps on going this way, this route, where it seems like we keep on getting the short stick.”