The expectations for the Baltimore Ravens and their fan base were raised when ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported the NFL is considering taking away a draft pick from the Pittsburgh Steelers as a result of coach Mike Tomlin stepping on the field in Thursday night's game.
I would be surprised if the NFL decides to hand down that extreme level of discipline. The reason is the league would have to be certain about Tomlin's intent to take this action.
And while quarterback Joe Flacco and other Ravens believe Tomlin interfered with Jacoby Jones' kickoff return on purpose, there is no way to definitively prove it. Tomlin, who had his back to the play and was watching on the M&T Bank Stadium video board, insists he lost track of where he was on the field. It would be different if Tomlin was facing the play and didn't move.
Let's look at the instances when the NFL took away picks: Spygate in 2007 (the New England Patriots lost a first-round pick) and the bounty scandal in 2012 (the New Orleans Saints lost two second-round picks). While Tomlin's action was wrong, I can't see how one foot on the field of play can be lumped into these sordid incidents.
"I don’t believe he did it intentionally," ESPN analyst Tom Jackson said on Sunday NFL Countdown. "If you know him, he was not trying to impede his (Jones’) progress. Exactly what he said, ‘he looked up, saw the guy was going to be right on top of him, he tried to get out of the way – couldn’t do it in time to not affect Jacoby Jones.’ A fine is going to come down. You have to judge intent before you start talking about draft picks.”
Tomlin is losing in the court of public opinion. In a SportsNation poll, 71 percent of the nearly 170,000 votes believe Tomlin intentionally interfered with Jones.
Everyone should be able to agree that Tomlin needs to be fined. This has nothing to do with intent. His right foot was clearly in bounds when Jones was running up the sideline, and it caused Jones to veer right where he was caught from behind by Cortez Allen.
Announcing a six-figure fine for Tomlin would send the right message to the rest of the league. And, by just hinting that losing a draft pick was a possibility, it also shows how serious the NFL considers this matter.