OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Many of the Baltimore Ravens players have made it known that they believe Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin stepped on the field on purpose to interfere with Jacoby Jones on a kickoff return Thursday night.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he doesn't agree with them.
"We respect the process, respect everybody involved. We certainly respect the Steelers and Mike Tomlin completely," Harbaugh said Wednesday about an hour after the NFL announced it fined Tomlin $100,000. "We never really thought for one second that there was intentionality there personally. I think I was able to make light of that after the game."
I'm sure there will now be a debate among Ravens fans on whether Harbaugh really believes that or if he's simply taking the high road with his biggest division rival. I can't tell you how many videos have been sent my way from fans who are convinced that Tomlin plotted to make Jones swerve right and get caught from behind.
But the hefty fine wasn't based on intent. It was based on Tomlin doing something wrong. He shouldn't have had his right foot inbounds with Jones running up the sideline. He broke the rules -- a violation of Rule 13, Section 1, Article 4, to be specific -- and he was disciplined for it.
"You can say he did it on purpose, but you don’t truly know," wide receiver Torrey Smith said Wednesday. "There are coaches standing in that white box all the time. It’s not like he did anything crazy. But Harbaugh does a great job of staying back. I’m sure he’ll take a couple extra steps back now with $100,000 out there."
Quarterback Joe Flacco was the most critical of Tomlin after the game, accusing the coach of watching the play on the stadium's video board and knowingly interfering with Jones.
"I don’t like when anybody gets money taken out of their pockets, [whether it's] players, coaches," Flacco said. "I don’t like to see fines, especially big ones."
Defensive end Chris Canty, who also believes Tomlin intentionally interfered, believes the punishment fit the crime.
"The NFL does a good job of disciplining its employees," Canty said. "I don’t think this situation is any different. I think it’s just and we’ll move on from it."
Smith was shocked when told of the size of Tomlin's fine.
"$100,000? That’s a lot of money," Smith said. "It’s all funny because we won. Had we lost, I’d probably be blaming him. I’m not going to lie."
Like Harbaugh said Monday, he reiterated that the Ravens are moving on from this much-talked about incident.
"Those things can happen, and they do happen, to coaches, players and officials every single week and they’re addressed with the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "This one just got more attention than most of them."