A contrite Mike Tomlin apologized profusely and sincerely today for his widely criticized actions Thursday night in the Steelers game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Tomlin not only made a statement and his weekly news conference, he asked for and encouraged questions. It was clear he wanted to address this issue and get it behind him.
He did that well. He spent about 20 minutes apologizing for his actions and pleading his case that they were unintentional. He made it clear he cherishes greatly the integrity of the game and did not want it tarnished.
If he is to be believed -- and count me among those who do -- his action of possibly interfering with play was totally unintentional.
It was wrong. It was stupid. But it was not deliberate.
Tomlin said, ''My actions are a lot of things – embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal, a blunder….I take full responsibility for my actions on that play. I acknowledge my actions became part of the play. I also embrace as head coaches we are held to highest levels of conduct and with that blunder I feel woefully short.”
Tomlin said he has been in contact with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league disciplinarians Merton Hanks and Ray Anderson. If punishment is forthcoming, and in almost all certainty it will, it should be announced later this week.
Considering the believable stance he presented, the penalty figures to be lighter that some had speculated. Most certainly, for this first-time offense, there will be no removing of a draft choice. Nor are the Steelers likely to be fined. But Tomlin will face a hefty fine.
Although his actions were illegal -- both in where he stood and in placing a foot ever-so briefly on the field as kick return Jacoby Jones approached -- the fact they are not likely to be judged intentional will go a long way toward clearing Tomlin’s name.
“I understand there are repercussions of a blunder of that nature,” Tomlin said. “I also understand comes the charge of preserving and protecting the integrity of the game in football. My biggest error was not realizing that play jeopardized the integrity of game from a perception standpoint.
“At no point did I realize my actions could have been viewed as intentional and that’s a mistake on my part. I should have realized the potential and acted accordingly.”
Tomlin explained that he took his usual position on the kickoff, near the 35-yard line and close to the field of play. He then viewed the kickoff return play out on the stadium Jumbotron -- as he always does. He said he didn’t realize how close he came to being in the play until he saw himself on the Jumbotron.
At that point he hastily removed himself from the field. But first he stepped on to the field. He said he did that to give himself thrust to get off the field.
That is totally believable.
''My desire is to be completely transparent,’’ Tomlin said.
It was a strong, straightforward and honest performance. Tomlin has taken a giant step in clearing his name and restoring his integrity.
The next step will be made by the NFL. Unless something out of the ordinary comes from that decision, this issue belong in the past. It was long be remembered but it should be remembered as a mistake, not a deliberate attempt to cheat.
Tomlin has cleared his name. Time to move on.