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Not Grasping Missed Facemask Calls


We all understand officials missing a call here and there during the fast pace of a pro football game. It happens all the time, and usually we don't give it a second thought.

But when we're talking about a facemask infraction, it's different because that penalty could lead to serious injury. How many times have you seen a player's helmet get tugged and turned, only to cringe when you watch the replay in slow motion. It's amazing there aren't more neck injuries.

During two games on Sunday, officials missed what appeared clear facemasking penalties.

The first happened in the Redskins-Lions game, when Detroit defensive back William James grabbed Santana Moss's facemask. A similar scenario transpired in the Colts-Cardinals game, when Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea grabbed Larry Fitzgerald's facemask while he was making a catch.

Both wide receivers popped up after being tackled and turned to look for a flag. Who could blame them, considering how potentially damaging grabbing the facemask of a player can be?

Penalties such as holding happen virtually every play, and it would be pointless to call each infraction. Games would last five hours, and the spirit of the game would suffer.

But as far as facemasking, it's a completely different issue. Not only are we dealing with possible injury to the neck and spine, but normally the sequence comes in open space where officials can get a good look at the play.

It would be tragic if a facemasking penalty that resulted in significant injury went unpunished. Officials simply can't wait until then to begin enforcing that infraction more consistently.

By Gene Wang  |  September 28, 2009; 8:51 AM ET  | Category:  Refs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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