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Officials have to stop “blowing” critical calls

Jason Cole

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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Don’t blow the whistle right away.

Let the play continue and sort it out later.

There are several ways to say it. Whether or not you agree with the principle of a ref swallowing his whistle, the NFL has preached the idea of refs waiting to make a call for nearly two decades.

Yet somehow, someway, the officials keep screwing up this simple principle. On Sunday, the latest example may have cost the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a game. It’s at least the sixth time it has happened this season.

While it’s easy to pin much of the blame on Tampa Bay’s offense after three more turnovers from quarterback Jameis Winston and/or on a brutally poor effort on a critical fourth-and-short play, that story is old hat.

The hand-wringing the Glazer Family is going to do over whether to re-sign Winston this offseason is hard to imagine. That decision, however, doesn’t have to come today.

A decision about how to fix officiating is a more pertinent issue for Commissioner Roger Goodell, Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron and the league as a whole. Errors in officiating have been a theme since the non-call in the Rams-Saints NFC Championship Game in January.

Those errors are costing teams vital wins and impacting legacies.

Put it this way: if the Rams don’t make the Super Bowl last season, is the league completely infatuated with Sean McVay as it was on the way to hiring young coaches such as Matt LaFleur, Kliff Kingsbury and Zac Taylor?

But, I digress. I’ll circle back to this point in a moment.

On Sunday, Tennessee was leading 27-23 and got away with an obvious fumble by holder Brett Kern on a fake field goal with 3:45 remaining. Kern tried to convert a fourth-and-2 play, but was quickly stopped by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White (photo above), coughing up the ball while he was still standing.

The Bucs scooped the ball and looked to have an easy touchdown return that would have flipped the lead. Instead, the play was whistled dead and Tampa Bay took over possession still needing a TD.

If you’re Tampa Bay coach Bruce Arians, you have to be asking: what the hell is going on here? This was a brutal whistle and completely against the rule of thumb the NFL has preached for years.

In fact, it’s something that the NFL and Riveron have been emphasizing weekly after the officials erred in week two by blowing the whistle and nullifying a potential game changing fumble return the Saints Cameron Jordan, against….you guessed it, the Rams.

So, there was no reason to blow the whistle Sunday. There was simply no need and no gain. The officials weren’t protecting a quarterback or a defenseless player.

The officials just blew it, literally.

This is the type of play that is simply inexcusable for the NFL to tolerate. It is the kind of play the NFL Referees Association also needs to rail against for the sake of all officials. This requires fines and public accountability, such as saying that officials who make these mistakes will miss a game.

Yes, officiating is incredibly difficult and there are few rewards. No one ever talks about good officiating. Good officiating is defined by not noticing it. If a ref does his job well, it’s like a great waiter who goes unnoticed, because people are so happy with the dining experience.

For those who complain about missed calls, such as the two illegal hands to the face penalties against Trey Flowers in the Detroit-Green Bay game two weeks ago, this is more egregious.

Not following directives of the V.P. of Officiating is a whole lot different than making a poor evaluation in a split second, especially when you may be in an odd position with a bad view.

If you are Goodell or Riveron, this is the stuff that makes you pull your hair out. The only hope they have is that somehow Arians won’t file a complaint. The chances of that are about as good as Bill Belichick smiling in a postgame press conference.

If you are Arians – or, more importantly, Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich or defensive coordinator Todd Bowles – this type of call can change the direction of everything you’re trying to accomplish. The rest of the game was marred by game-costing mistakes, from a botched fourth-and-short call to the game-ending interception by Winston.

The ripple of this play is it could further convince the Glazers to move on from Winston at the end of the season rather than stay with him. All the work Arians and Co. have put in with Winston could be wasted.

For Leftwich, the chance to be a head coach is very much wrapped up in his ability to get Winston to be better. If Bowles has a chance to be a head coach again, the bottom line is about winning.

And while there are plenty of criticisms that can be fairly launched at Arians and his staff, the reality is that the NFL needs to take a more serious approach to punishing officials on plays like the botched fumble/no fumble Sunday in Nashville.

There are too many people with too much at stake.

Jason Cole is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector who has covered the NFL since 1992. He has worked for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald, Yahoo Sports! and Bleacher Report. He is the author or co-author of six books, including Giant with Plaxico Burress and Heart for the Game with Simon Keith.

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NFL

Florida Attorney General files appeal in Robert Kraft case

Florida Football Insiders

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Attorney General has appealed a lower court ruling throwing out the video in New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft solicitation of prostitution case from Palm Beach this past January.

Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office just beat the Tuesday night October 1st deadline to file with Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals on the previous lower court ruling.

The 50 page legal brief concludes that authorities in Palm Beach County were within their right to obtain video surveillance of Kraft and numerous others having sex acts performed on them during a five day period in January at the “Orchids of Asia” Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida.

Kraft, the 78 year old owner of the Patriots, was allegedly captured on video on back-to-back days engaging in the illegal sex acts.

The Boston Globe obtained the legal brief which quoted Moody’s office,

“Based on video captured by surveillance cameras police installed in the Spa pursuant to a warrant, Mr. Kraft’s guilt is a virtual certainty.”

Kraft lawyers were not available for comment on the appeal to the paper Wednesday morning.

Kraft’s defense team won the key ruling to suppress the video for his case with circuit Judge Robert Hanser. In May Hanser agreed that the so-called “Sneak-and-Peek warrant” that the police officials obtained did not take enough precautions to protect the privacy of those who were going into the massage parlor and receiving legitimate massages.

The five-day surveillance netted charges against 25 men on solicitation of prostitution and lewd and lascivious conduct. Numerous ones of them have already plead guilty.

Kraft, who has a home in Palm Beach, was in the day spa just hours before he flew to Kansas City for the Patriots overtime AFC Championship Game win against the Chiefs that put them into Super Bowl 53.

The legal brief asserts that Kraft was not entitled to argue to the court about the rights of all of the defendants or anyone else that was surveilled on the video. Instead, Moody’s office wrote,

“Mr. Kraft lacks standing to vicariously assert the Fourth Amendment rights of third parties … Second, in no event would Mr. Kraft be entitled to total suppression of all video in the case; rather, he would be entitled to suppress only the unlawfully seized videos, a class which would not include the video evidence of his own prostitution offenses.”

In other words, he is only allowed to argue about his own situation and Hanser ruled incorrectly on that point.

Kraft’s side now has 30 days to respond. The appeals court is expected to rule later this winter and if they do so in favor of the Attorney General and the prosecutors, then the video may end up being released to the public even before a trial.

That is because, as we have detailed throughout this process earlier this year, defendants in Florida caught under any type of video surveillance in alleged criminal acts are not exempt from having that video released, even if they have not been tried or convicted.

Numerous local and national media outlets filed with the Palm Beach County Court to have the video released and that case is also still pending because of Hanser’s previous May ruling.

More serious than they likely fine, community service, etc. that Kraft might receive as punishment, is the possible discipline from the NFL under the personal conduct policy.

That could include fines and suspension, but the NFL traditionally waits for legal proceedings to finish first.

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NFL

Dolphins at home- Jags and Bucs out West Sunday

Florida Football Insiders

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Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Week number four in the NFL has two of the state teams on the road out West and the other hosting a West Coast team in South Florida.

We begin with the Dolphins, off to their most miserable start in franchise history at 0 – 3 and having been blown out at all three games. They will play host to the L.A. Chargers.

The Chargers are struggling themselves having lost their last two games, including to Houston last week at home. Miami will keep Josh Rosen in at quarterback, and he played adequately in Dallas, despite the team only kicking two field goals.

The Chargers will welcome back their starting Pro Bowl running back, Melvin Gordon, who has ended his 9-week holdout seeking a new contract. Gordon is only expected to play sparingly, if at all.

The Jaguars, off a win over the Titans 10 days ago on Thursday Night Football, travel to Mile High to take on the Broncos. The biggest question mark is: defensive back Jalen Ramsey, who has an ongoing soap opera with the team about whether he is going to be traded?

Ramsey also apparently has a back and hamstring injuries and is listed as questionable for the game. However, he did travel with the team and may be out there playing this afternoon.

The Jacksonville pass rush registered nine sacks on Tennessee in the home win and now will try to get after Joe Flacco Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew has developed a connection with second-year receiver D.J. Chark hitting him with a TD in each of the last two games. And we’ll see if his “Minshew Magic” with throws and occasionally his feet, can continue in a difficult place to play.

Finally, the Buccaneers travel farther out west to Los Angeles to take on the unbeaten Rams.

Tampa Bay is still reeling from giving up an 18-point lead at home to lose to the Giants. This included, getting into easy field goal range only to have kicker Matt Gay miss it with no time left.

Wide receiver Mike Evans had a tremendous game with 190 yards and three touchdowns. However, he will likely be locked up with Pro Bowl DB Aqib Talib, who was originally drafted by the Buccaneers in 2008.

And, as we wrote earlier this week, the Bucs must contend with the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in defensive tackle, Aaron Donald. Trying to slow him down/keep him out of QB Jameis Winston’s face will be big.

And, on offense, the Rams have a high-powered attack led by QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley is already looking running early in this season.

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