October 25, 2014

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Gay hit with fine

Brian Dulik

The Gazette

BEREA — The NFL office has made Steelers cornerback William Gay pay for his hit to the head of Browns quarterback Jason Campbell.

Gay was fined $15,750 by the league Friday, docking him for delivering a left-handed shot to Campbell’s facemask during the third quarter of Pittsburgh’s 27-11 victory at Cleveland.

Specifically, the NFL ruled that Gay “unnecessarily delivered a forcible blow to his opponent’s head and neck area,” which went unnoticed and unpenalized by referee Terry McAulay.

News of the fine, however, meant little to the Browns because Campbell has been unable to practice since suffering a concussion on the illegal hit. Brandon Weeden will start at quarterback Sunday when Cleveland hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Nothing is going to change the fact that our quarterback is out hurt,” six-time Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. “Obviously, on replay you saw it — and it was pretty clear — that it was a shot to the head.

“There are two officials that sit upstairs in a booth and are watching the game. You would like them to have the option to buzz down to the ref and have these plays get the same kind of scrutiny that a scoring play or a turnover play has.”

All scoring plays and turnovers are reviewed by the replay officials, but they cannot overturn them based on an uncalled obvious penalty.

In this case, Campbell fumbled as a result of the illegal hit to his head, allowing Pittsburgh to score on the next snap and increase its lead to 20-3. If a personal foul had been called on Gay, the Browns would have been in field goal range while only trailing 13-3.

“The way it’s being emphasized by the league, it should never be missed,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said, still fuming over the non-call. “I thought he got hit in the facemask right from the beginning.

“When you see the replay, it’s really easy to see from all the angles — except for the one that the referee had because he’s standing behind. The ones (the NFL) has made mistakes on is where they’ve gone too far, but this one, obviously, they didn’t go far enough.”

Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski said Campbell has checked in each morning with the team’s trainers, who have subsequently sent him home to rest. The ninth-year pro is being treated under the NFL’s concussion protocol and will not be permitted to practice until he passes a number of medical tests.

Gay, meanwhile, was in uniform and started Thursday when the Steelers lost 22-20 at Baltimore. He is making $1 million this season, meaning the fine accounted for slightly more than one-quarter of his $58,824 weekly check.

“You would think being able to review hits like this has to be revisited in the offseason,” Browns running back Chris Ogbonnaya said. “Discussions have to take place between the NFLPA and NFL rules committee, but it’s something that you would like everyone to look at.

“The only question, really, is how far do you want to go with replays during games?”

According to longtime NFL official Ed Hochuli, there is no good answer to that question.

“The trouble with making that a reviewable call for replay is there is still a certain amount of judgment involved,” he said.

“Replay is designed to fix things in which there is no judgment. There is some judgment involved with hits to the helmet, so I kind of doubt that replay will go there in the near future.”

Turner respectfully disagrees.

The 23rd-year NFL coach points out that the league has gone out of its way to prevent head-shots, so it needs to take the next step in handing out in-game discipline.

“With the way people are getting fined, yeah, it would be something I would think they would look at and consider the possibility of reviewing,” Turner said. “But my focus right now isn’t on that. It’s on playing Jacksonville, and I think Brandon is going to play well for us.”

Injury update

Browns linebacker Tank Carder (shoulder) and Campbell (concussion) have been declared out for the Jaguars game, while linebacker Craig Robertson (knee) is doubtful.

With starter Robertson and backup Carder hurt, third-stringer Darius Eubanks will make his first NFL start. The undrafted rookie from Georgia Southern played his first pro downs on defense against the Steelers.

“This opportunity is something you dream about,” said Eubanks, who was promoted to Cleveland’s active roster from its practice squad on Oct. 26. “I didn’t expect it to come this fast, but I have to make the most of it and prepare myself to be ready.”

Tackle Martin Wallace (illness), defensive end Armonty Bryant (back) and tight end MarQueis Gray (hamstring) are questionable.

Listed as probable are cornerback Buster Skrine (ribs), tackle Mitchell Schwartz (toe), running back Willis McGahee (knee), linebacker Paul Kruger (finger), punter Spencer Lanning (left knee) and wide receiver Josh Cooper (illness).

l Jaguars running back Justin Forsett (foot) and wide receiver Stephen Burton (concussion) are out, while wide receiver Mike Brown (shoulder) is questionable.

Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (groin), defensive end Andre Branch (knee), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee), defensive tackle Roy Miller (shoulder), cornerback Will Blackmon (shoulder), tackle Cameron Bradfield (biceps), safety Winston Guy (shoulder) and linebacker J.T. Thomas (ankle) are all probable.

The new guy

Quarterback Alex Tanney joined the Browns four days ago, but coach Rob Chudzinski said he would not be concerned if he had to play against Jacksonville.

Tanney spent the first 12 weeks of the season on the Cowboys’ practice squad and has not taken a snap in an NFL regular season game. The 6-foot-3, 223-pounder was on Kansas City’s roster for the entire 2012 season, but missed the year with a finger injury.

“Alex has worked as hard as he can to get himself ready,” Chudzinski said. “We’ll have a package of plays for him if he needs to play, and I’m confident that he’ll be able to go in and execute those plays.”

Cleveland’s quarterbacks have combined for 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, a .549 completion percentage and a 74.6 passer rating through 11 games.

Brian Hoyer owns the top rating at 82.6 and completion percentage at .594, while Campbell has the best touchdown-to-interception ratio at 6:3.

Extra points

The Browns/Steelers game drew a 30.7 local television rating and a 55 share in Greater Cleveland, which ranked 12th among NFL markets. The contest earned a 38.4 rating and 62 share in Pittsburgh.

 l Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots will call the Browns/Jaguars game on CBS. It will air in the entire state of Ohio, along with five other markets in the United States (Jacksonville, Orlando, Savannah, Ga., Charleston, W.V., and Erie, Pa).

l Cleveland made two practice squad moves, signing center Patrick Lewis and releasing wide receiver Reggie Dunn. Lewis was cut from the Browns’ 53-man active roster Tuesday in order to make room for tight end Andre Smith.

Quote of the day

“I’m more of a man in the mirror guy. I make sure my house is clean before I say anything.” — Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.