Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

One TD, One Puzzling Ruling for Thomas; Coaches and Players Are Unclear on Controversial Third-Quarter Call

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

One TD, One Puzzling Ruling for Thomas; Coaches and Players Are Unclear on Controversial Third-Quarter Call

Article excerpt

Byline: VITO STELLINO

INDIANAPOLIS - Jaguars punt returner Mike Thomas was getting ready to make a fair catch of a punt with 10 minutes left in the third quarter when Taj Smith of the Colts ran into him.

Thomas assumed Smith was going to be penalized for running into the returner.

"I didn't see it," Thomas said. "I'm tracking the ball. I can't look in front of me and track at the same time. He ran into me. That's all I know."

The Colts, though, weren't penalized.

Instead, the Jaguars' Derek Cox was flagged for pushing Smith into Thomas with an illegal block in the back.

The officials held several huddles and first moved the ball back to the original line of scrimmage where the Colts punted.

Then they marched back down the field and gave the Colts the ball on the Jaguars' 21 because Kavell Connor recovered the ball and the Colts declined the penalty on Cox.

Box Cox and Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said they thought Cox should have been penalized and the Jaguars' should have had the ball. The ruling led to a Colts field goal.

Del Rio said, "I don't think they had it right at the end. I think the guy [Smith] clearly ran into our punt returner. The interpretation was he was shoved into the returner."

Cox said, "I didn't give him anything, really. I pulled off [Smith]. The fact they got the ball back, I didn't understand that."

The crew of referee Mike Carey also seemed somewhat befuddled when they first walked down to one end of the field and then the other.

The players seemed as puzzled as the fans as they milled around trying to figure out what was going on.

Quarterback David Garrard said, "That was unbelievably weird. You think at first you've got a guy running into the returner and then it turns around and there's a penalty on us and they have the ball on the 21. I'm still dumbfounded with that call, but it is what it is."

Carey told a pool reporter. "There was contact with the maker of the fair catch. We had a flag for that. We also had a flag for illegal block in the back that pushed him into [the Jaguars' returner]. We picked up the flag for the illegal contact with the fair catcher and enforced the illegal block in the back. …

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