By Brian Milne
So I’m going to start this column out by admitting I’m an Eagles fan, so I’m in no way trying to take away from one of the greatest comebacks I’ve seen in the NFL or take a shot at the Eagles for any reason.
But someone has to point this out, because the NFL, and the national media for that matter, ignored what could have been the call of the year on Sunday -- and DeSean Jackson could have cost the Philadelphia Eagles the game and a higher playoff seed with his showboating ways as he crossed the end zone on his game-winning 65-yard punt return against the New York Giants.
When Will DeSean Jackson Learn?
It’s a moot point now, but this is going to catch up with Jackson and the Eagles if he continues to be careless around the goal line and his teammates aren’t aware of the NFL’s new emphasis on sideline rules and restrictions.
And I’m flabbergasted I’ve yet to see anyone point this out despite the fact the video has been seen by tens of millions of people thanks to ad nauseam coverage by ESPN, Fox and YouTube. The issue being that as DeSean Jackson made that left turn about six yards shy of the end zone Sunday to showboat and/or run out the clock, many of the Eagles bench players and coaches came pouring onto the field before the play was officially over because Jackson lollygagged into the end zone.
And this wasn’t the first time he’s pulled a boneheaded “look-at-me” showboat once he sniffed the end zone.
He did it in high school. He did it at Cal. He did it on what should have been his first touchdown with the Eagles.
On Sunday, it would have been nice if Fox gave us a rafter view of the play to see exactly when the players poured onto the field (Fox captures The Metrodome collapsing waaaay before the actual game, but doesn’t get an overall shot of the play of the year? Seriously?), but you can watch the video below and pause it at 1:49 and see the Eagles are cutting it extremely close and likely came onto the field before he broke the plane.
All it takes is one player, and there are a number of players on the field at this point as seen by the photo above and video below.
While you can’t see his feet relative to the goal line in this replay with his teammates in the background, earlier footage shows he didn’t cross the plane until at least three strides AFTER he put both hands on the football. Now watch the video again with him running toward the camera, and you’ll see players coming onto the field before he takes that third step and cruises into the end zone.
Maybe Giants coach Tom Coughlin should have been tearing into the officials instead of his rookie punter, Matt Dodge, after the game.
The Alosi Factor
So what, you say, a few players bum rushed the field toward the end of what was one of the greatest comebacks of all-time. What's the big deal? The big deal is that it came just THREE DAYS after the NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams reiterating sideline rules and restrictions, and threatening 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after New York Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped and injured Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll during a punt coverage play a week earlier
That memo stated that only coaches and a small amount of situation substitution players are allowed within the "second border" -- which extends to the solid yellow line within the bench area that is six feet from the solid white "first border." And the Eagles had five or six individuals on the field in the above screenshot.
Each team, the memo states, is responsible for appointing what the league calls a "get-back coach" in charge of enforcing all sideline restrictions. The memo says violators of these rules will be subject to in-game penalties and other potential discipline.
While a warning is typically issued for violating sideline rules, who’s to say the officials wouldn’t have been justified after the Jets debacle to flag the Eagles for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when five or six players not only crossed both borders but came onto the field while the ball was still live?
Also in the NFL rule book: “On a foul by the offense on last play of half or game, the down is not replayed and the play in which the foul is committed is nullified.” Which means the play could have been nullified, sending the game into overtime.
It makes you wonder what Jackson is thinking, and if he’ll ever learn his lesson about showboating BEFORE he hits paydirt. Do what you like after the fact, but all of this celebration before you break the plane has already cost him multiple times, and he’s one more blunder away from becoming the next Leon Lett, rather than the next Devin Hester.
Note: BallHyped.com has contacted the NFL for comment on this story and will publish a response if it becomes available.
• • •
From the 2010 Official Playing Rules and Casebook of the NFL:
Article 4: All team personnel must observe the zone restrictions applicable to the bench area and the border rimming the playing field. The only persons permitted within the solid six-foot white border (1-1) while play is in progress on the field are game officials. For reasons involving the safety of participating players whose actions may carry them out of bounds, officials’ unobstructed coverage of the game, and spectators’ sightlines to the field, the border rules must be observed by all coaches and players in the bench area. Violators are subject to penalty by the officials.
Article 5: Coaches and other non-participating team personnel (including uniformed players not in the game at the time) are prohibited from moving laterally along the sidelines any further than the points that are 18 yards from the middle of the bench area (i.e., 32-yard lines to left and right of bench areas when benches are placed on opposite sides of the field). Lateral movement within the bench area must be behind the solid six-foot white border (see Article 4 above).
Penalty: For illegal acts under Articles 1 through 6 above: Loss of 15 yards from team for whose supposed benefit foul was made. (Unsportsmanlike conduct.)
Enforcement is from:
a) succeeding spot if the ball is dead.
b) whatever spot the Referee, after consulting with crew, deems equitable, if the ball was in play.
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