Tomlin apologizes for sideline ‘blunder’

Tomlin apologizes for sideline ‘blunder’ on kickoff in Baltimore

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PITTSBURGH – A contrite Mike Tomlin spent nearly a half an hour Tuesday explaining and fielding questions regarding his sideline “blunder” during Thursday night’s game in Baltimore.


Tomlin, who had not spoken publicly since moments after the 22-20 loss, said he was surprised that anyone would construe his actions as an attempt to cheat.


“I think probably my biggest error on Thursday night was not realizing that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint,” the Steelers’ head coach said. “At no time Thursday night, in the game or after, did I realize that my actions could be perceived potentially as intentional, and that’s a mistake on my part. As someone that’s in my position who’s supposed to preserve the integrity of the game of football, I should’ve realized the potential for that and acted accordingly. I didn’t realize that potential.”


With the Steelers trailing 13-7 following an Emmanuel Sanders’ touchdown catch in the third quarter, Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones fielded the ensuing kickoff and broke up the sideline in front of the Pittsburgh bench. Tomlin, who stood along the edge of the field at the Pittsburgh 40-yard line, had his back turned to the play, watching it unfold on the stadium’s jumbotron.


As Jones approached him, Tomlin said he was surprised to see himself appear on the screen he was watching. At that point, he turned his head and saw Jones, then jumped out of the way. Jones, meanwhile, cut to his right – away from Tomlin – and was caught from behind by Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen.


The play did not initially draw any scrutiny and Tomlin was not penalized for being on the white portion of the sideline or inches on the field. But slow-motion replays were shown several times on the videoboard during a pair of ensuing TV timeouts, and Tomlin was later captured smiling as fans booed him.


Some Baltimore players said Tomlin stood where he did in an effort to slow Jones. It was a hot topic over the weekend on NFL pregame shows.


“It’s been shocking to me that my actions could have been, or have been, perceived in any way intentional,” Tomlin said. “I have no desire to defend my character and things of that nature. I’ve become comfortable with the fact that in these positions you get judged in a certain way, and to a certain degree you live a public lifestyle. I’ve embraced that long ago. I will take this unfortunate incident, and this blunder on my part, and do so with honor to stand up and champion our game, in particular the NFL and the integrity of that. It’s all that I have professionally. It’s been very good to me in my life, and to be honest with you, the winning of any game is not important enough for me to jeopardize that.”


Tomlin didn’t realize the issue was a big deal until informed by his teenage sons.


He called NFL officials, including commissioner Roger Goodell and senior vice president Ray Anderson, who will be in charge of meting out punishment, to discuss the incident Monday. Because of the holiday weekend, the league did not begin reviewing the play until Monday. The penalty could include a fine and/or suspension, either of which Tomlin accepts.


“Certainly I do, because first and foremost, my behavior was inexcusable,” said Tomlin, who is a member of the league’s competition committee. “It was an inexcusable blunder on my part. In my position, 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.”


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