ESPN Bengals beat writer Coley Harvey wrote on Monday that tight end Jermaine Gresham could be facing a fine for contacting a game official in the second quarter, which led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Giovani Bernard had picked up seven yards with over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter, leaving a second and three at the Lions 20-yard line. Instead, Gresham was provoked by Lions defensive end Willie Young and when the officials tried to calm the situation, Gresham pushed the official's hand aside. The resulting infraction pushed Cincinnati back into a second-and-19 and Cincinnati wasn't able to recover. Adding insult to injury, Mike Nugent pushed the 47-yard attempt wide left.
It is against NFL policy for a player to make contact with referees. If improper bumping or shoving occurs by a player, a $26,250 fine could be levied by the league, according to its fine schedule. A $21,000 fine could be handed down to players who commit some kind of verbal or other type of non-physical offense against an official.
However, we're not sure that he should be. Watching the film, it appears that the official was the first to lay his hand on the player. Gresham then forcefully deflecting his hand off of him.
Clearly stated in Section Three, Article 1g in the NFL Rule Book, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be called due to "unnecessary physical contact with a game official." That happened. And to the letter of the law, the official was right to throw the flag.
Whether or not Gresham should be fined is gray, in our opinion. At this point, two players, emotionally charged playing an extraordinarily violent game and further deteriorating with a confrontation on the field, makes for a volatile situation for an official. So it would be understandable if the league decided not to fine him. On the other hand, we could see this being used as an example that no matter what, you don't touch officials, even if the official touched you first.
I agree with Coley; Gresham will probably be fined. But I'm not sure that he should be.