Tomlin: Sideline blunder 'inexcusable' but not intentional



The NFL remained silent on any discipline it might issue to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for his sideline violation in Baltimore, but he spoke volumes.

Tomlin used many unflattering names for what he did on that third-quarter kickoff Thanksgiving night except one -- "intentional." Stretching his weekly news conference to nearly twice its normal length, Tomlin took the first 20 minutes to talk about what he often referred to as his "blunder" in Baltimore.

"My descriptions of my actions on that play are a lot of things -- embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal, and a blunder, being many of the things I use to describe it. I take full responsibility for my actions on that play."

Tomlin: Sideline actions inexcusable, not intentional

Mike Tomlin used his news conference today to say his sideline incident in the Steelers-Ravens game was inexcusable but not intentional. Ed Bouchette adds context and an update on the team's injury list. (Video by Andrew Rush; 12/3/2013)

What he said it was not was intentional and he admitted that he was shocked by the reaction around the country that thought otherwise.

"I think probably my biggest error on Thursday night was not realizing that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint. At no time Thursday night, in the game or after, did I realize that my actions would be perceived potentially or could be perceived potentially as intentional. That's a mistake on my part."

The play came on a kickoff in the third quarter after the first Steelers score in what would become a 22-20 loss to the Ravens. Jacoby Jones returned it down the left along the Steelers sideline. There, at Baltimore's 37, Tomlin stood with his back to the play, his feet together and barely out of bounds -- but standing in the 6-foot white area that is prohibited for him to be. He said he watched the play develop on the video scoreboard when suddenly he saw himself as the camera followed Jones, something he called "a frightening experience, an embarrassing experience." He took a step to the right and onto the field to, as he explained it, pivot to the left away from Jones.

Nevertheless, Jones slightly altered his route and Cortez Allen tackled him at the Baltimore 27.

"Since I left the stadium, it's been shocking to me that my actions could have been or have been perceived in any way intentional in regards to my actions on that play," Tomlin said.

He said he expects the NFL to discipline him and will accept whatever it is, even if that includes removing him from the competition committee that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed him to in April. That committee, among other things, recommends rules changes to the NFL for adoption, like the one Tomlin violated.

Tomlin said he talked to Goodell Monday and also with Ray Anderson, NFL vice president of football operations, and Merton Hanks, a vice president of operations. One thing they told Tomlin is that they found other instances on video of him standing and watching in a similar vein on kickoffs.

"It's standard procedure for me. It was refreshing to hear when I talked to those guys that they did some investigative research on my procedure. Almost always when the ball is kicked off, I am right at the kickoff line in order to watch that."

Nevertheless, Tomlin said he was wrong.

"I realized that I fell short of the expectations of my position in being where I was and my actions on the play. I am not one to seek comfort from that standpoint, so I was just going to take my medicine, if you will. I thought that once the integrity of the game became a question in some of the commentary and discussions, then it was my duty to speak up. And I am taking this forum in which to do so."

Tomlin came across Tuesday as sincere in both his remorse for tarnishing the game, and while saying he had no intent to disrupt Jones.

"I would imagine if the Rooneys thought that I was capable of that or they thought my intentions were that, I wouldn't be sitting at this table talking to you guys."

Nevertheless, he does not think any perceived lack of intent would alter the discipline he expects from the NFL.

"Certainly I do, because first and foremost, my behavior was inexcusable. It was an inexcusable blunder on my part. To be in my position, obviously I am held to the highest of standards of conduct. That conduct fell short of that. I can't make those types of mistakes. I did. It's something that I have to wear."

Tomlin said he has not contacted the Ravens since the game.

"I did not, because I know the perspective that they have on it and are going to have on it."

He also said he has not tried to minimize his impending discipline.

"I am not acting in a means to preserve my wallet or my money. My wallet and my money is what it is because of the game of football. I guess we will all make due."

Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.


Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com; twitter: @gerrydulac First Published December 3, 2013 12:34 PM

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