NEW YORK - The NFL has a non-negotiable rule when it comes to its officials: Coaches can talk, but not touch.
So it did not come as a huge surprise when Pro Football Talk tweeted Wednesday morning that Patriots coach Bill Belichick will be fined for touching an official Sunday. Somewhat surprising is that he won't be suspended.
Belichick grabbed the arm of one of the various officials who were giving him the cold shoulder after a final-play field goal gave the Ravens a win over the Patriots. Belichick wanted someone to explain why the play wasn't being reviewed by replay.
"I'm trying to get an explanation for obviously an important call, play, in that game," Belichick said Monday. "That's the number one thing between coaches and officials. It's always at the forefront. It's just communication of what's going on, of what's happening."
Still, no touching.
In 2009, receiver Brandon Stokley was ejected from a game and fined $25,000 for making unintended contact with an official while disputing a call. That same season, Raiders tight end Tony Stewart was fined $25,000 for the same infraction.
And way back in 1995 (as we mentioned on Monday), former Steelers coach Bill Cowher was fined for stuffing a photo of a play on which the Steelers didn't have 12 men on the field into the pocket of the referee.
So Belichick, in all fairness, will be fined at least $25,000. Given the multiple warnings regarding treatment of the replacement officials and the fact that fines for verbal abuse have been in the range of $25,000 to $30,000, the fine for physical contact could be higher.
Some have suggested Belichick could be or should be suspended. But if he wasn't suspended for Spygate, he won't be suspended for grabbing an official's arm.
Still, discipline is warranted. All he had to do was follow the officials into the tunnel and ask to speak to the referee. Since it was the last play of the game, a replay was still possible; indeed, the referee in last year's Raiders-Bills game reviewed a last-play Hail Mary after the game had ended - unbeknownst to everyone at the time. Belichick should have gone through the proper channels and tried to lobby for another look at the field goal.
That said, the field goal looked to be good. More importantly, because the ball was over the upright, the call on the field couldn't have been overturned.
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