Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) scrambles in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

© Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

NFL officials fail to protect Baker Mayfield after helmet to helmet hit

Officials pick up flag, say QB was “allowed to be hit in the head”

October 22, 2018
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Daryl Ruiter-Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Had it been Tom Brady that Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead drilled in the earhole with the crown of his helmet, Whitehead probably would’ve been called for targeting and subject to ejection Sunday afternoon.

But it wasn’t.

Instead it was Browns rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield that took the hit, which made it okay according to the officiating crew that handled Sunday’s 26-23 overtime loss at Tampa Bay.

With just over 8 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Mayfield ripped off a 35-yard run to the Tampa Bay 41 when Whitehead lowered his head and drove his helmet right into the side of Mayfield’s head as he began to give himself up.

Originally a flag was thrown on the play, presumably for the hit, but the officials picked it up and then referee Shawn Hochuli, son of former referee Ed Hochuli, offered this explanation as to why no foul was committed.

“The quarterback was still a runner and therefore is allowed to be hit in the head. He had not yet begun his slide. There is no foul,” Hochuli said.

Say what?

Under the new helmet rules, which were put in place in the name of player safety, regardless of position – running back, quarterback, receiver, tight end, fullback – a defender is not permitted to lead with the crown of his helmet to any part of the head while making a tackle.

Picking up that flag was inexcusable and gross neglect for enforcing rules designed to protect player safety.

While the Browns should’ve been awarded an additional 15 yards, the call did not factor into the outcome of the game. The drive ended when Mayfield was stopped shy of the goal line on fourth-and-a half yard to go.

Head coach Hue Jackson continues to refuse to air his grievances with the officiating publicly, so I’ll do it for him: if players are held accountable through fines and suspensions for violating player safety rules, the officials should be too.