Scott Brown | ESPN.com
PITTSBURGH — Steelers safety Ryan Clark defended Mike Tomlin on Monday, saying the seventh-year coach never intended to interfere with the Baltimore Ravens‘ Jacoby Jones during a kickoff return Thursday night in Baltimore.
Tomlin hopped off the field just before Jones ran past him on the way to a 73-yard return. Tomlin’s right foot caused a slight change of direction by Jones and may have prevented a touchdown.
“No intent at all,” Clark said following the Steelers’ first practice of the week. “If he had tripped him or tackled him it would have been a different story, but he didn’t. When he noticed he was in the way, he dived away.”
The league is weighing punishment that could include hefty fines for Tomlin and the team, sources have told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The Steelers also could lose a draft pick.
Video shot by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh has raised questions about Tomlin’s claim that he inadvertently got too close to the field while watching Jones’ return on the Jumbotron with his back to the play. The video shows Tomlin stepping onto the field as Jones got near him and then jumping back onto the white stripe where he had been standing. Tomlin did not talk to reporters Monday after practice. His weekly news conference is at noon ET Tuesday.
In Owings Mills, Md., Ravens coach John Harbaugh said his team isn’t dwelling on the incident.
“Truthfully, we’ve moved on. We have,” Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s out there and it’s something that’s in the league’s hands. It’s been addressed a lot on every angle. I really don’t have anything to add to it. It doesn’t matter what I think or anybody else thinks. It is what it is, and the league will handle it.”
If he sticks his foot out and trips him, then that’s a different story. He was as surprised as anybody that [the play] was right there.
— Ryan Clark
A reporter asked Harbaugh whether Tomlin, who is the league’s most recent addition to the competition committee, should be held to a higher standard.
“I think everybody should be held to a higher standard,” Harbaugh said. “We’re in the National Football League. No matter what the issue, I know every coach in this league believes that certainly. So, I’ll leave it at that.”
Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley also said he believes Tomlin did not intentionally interfere with the third-quarter return that came after the Steelers scored a touchdown to trim Baltimore’s lead to 13-7. The Ravens had to settle for a field goal following the long return, and they beat the Steelers 22-20 after surviving a fourth-quarter rally.
Clark said the play has been blown out of proportion.
“[Tomlin] was as surprised as anybody that [the play] was right there,” Clark said. “It’s an unfortunate situation. More unfortunate that we have to talk about it, but it’s over now. The NFL will do what they have to do. There will be no tapes to burn, so it should be a speedy process.”
ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.
- Covered Steelers for six years for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
- Author of five books, including “Heaven Sent: The Heather Miller Story,” which highlights the friendship a young girl with cancer developed with several Steelers players