The Elephant in the Locker Room: About That “Roughing the Kicker” Thing, and Fines
By Greg Wright
Whew! I was almost certain that some intrepid journalist would scoop me on my chosen topic this week. When I saw the teaser for Danny O’Neil’s column on Thursday, I thought for sure he had:
There’s only one way that it is fair to fine Richard Sherman for making contact with Bills kicker Dan Carpenter. That’s if Carpenter is also fined $9,000…
But O’Neil wasn’t making the same point as I am about to at all. He was really arguing that neither Sherman nor Carpenter deserved to be fined.
I argue that Carpenter most definitely deserved to be fined, and wasn’t.
Let’s back up for a second. Click on the image below to watch a GIF of the play in question.
See Richard jump waaaayyyy offsides.
See Richard arrive at the point of the kick so early that he’s there before the ball is even kicked.
See Dan follow through on the kick attempt. (Which he should do, if he’s smart — or, if he’s smarter, as my friend Justin Gunn pointed out, yell “Fire, Fire!” as kicking teams are trained to do and perhaps use the “free play” to attempt a fake field goal pass for a TD.)
See Richard realize his only chance to block the kick, because he’s so early, is to grab the ball out of the holder’s hands.
See Richard reach back and actually get his hand on the ball.
See Dan kick the ball, and then kick Richard on his follow-through. (Note that Richard does not run into Dan. Dan kicks Richard.)
See Richard successfully block the kick.
Remember that a blocked kick, by rule, denies the kicker the protections normally granted to kickers.
See Dan immediately realize his kick is doomed and flop to the ground in simulated agony.
But wait, you say. How do I know this was a flop? How do I know Dan was faking an injury?
Because Dan told his trainer he was.
Click on the image below to watch a slowed-down GIF of Carpenter’s interaction with the trainer on the field in the wake of Sherman’s block.
See Dan continue to writhe in pain.
Understand that the reason was not to stop the clock–because if that’s was Dan’s reason, Dan would know it would require him to come out of the game.
No, Dan’s reason for the flop and the fake was to draw a 15-yard personal foul on Richard.
See the trainer rush quickly to Dan’s side because Dan so effectively faked being injured.
See Dan realize, “Oh, crap! That’s not what’s supposed to happen!”
See Dan quickly get to his feet, even pushing himself up with his supposedly damaged knee.
See Dan say to his trainer, “No, I’m okay,” and brush the trainer aside. (Play the original sequence back on your big-screen TV, and it’s not hard at all to read Dan’s lips.)
I could also show you copious footage from the next few minutes of folderol demonstrating Dan’s perfectly fine and functional knee. I could even show you that perfectly fine 49-yard field goal that Dan made but which didn’t count because of delay of game.
Yes, Dan most certainly did fake an injury. (Kudos at least to NBC Sports for being the lone national voice asserting that point.)
Did Dan deserve a penalty there for unsportsmanlike conduct?
Perhaps. But the rules don’t provide for that.
While the NFL “deprecates” the faking of injuries for whatever reason, it makes no provision for penalties. Instead, it levies fines and other penalties on players and teams that engage in such trickery.
Oh… except in Dan’s case. In Dan’s case, the NFL instead chose to fine Richard. For playing football. Brilliantly and athletically.
And yet Bills fans (and Seahawk haters, and Dan’s wife) continue to whine.
The only unsportsmanlike party in that sequence was Carpenter.
Or perhaps referee crew chief Walt Anderson.
Or perhaps his boss, Dean Blandino.
But Sherman? No. Decidedly not.
After four playoff appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us weekly for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.