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Browns in favor of replay on hits to helmet

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Browns in favor of replay on hits to helmet
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Cleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell is taken to the locker room after being injured in the third quarter of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- From his press box seat, Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner thought it was obvious quarterback Jason Campbell had been struck in the helmet by Pittsburgh's William Gay.

Thousands of fans thought so, too.

None of that mattered.

Referee Terry McAulay didn't see it, and Turner believes that should never be the case.

''You'd just like someone to come in and help him make that call,'' Turner said Friday. ''The way it's being emphasized by the league, it should never be missed, and the ones that they've made mistakes on is where they've gone too far. So this one obviously they didn't go far enough.''

Campbell sustained a concussion from Gay's blind-side hit, which crumpled the QB and caused him to fumble. On his way down, Campbell's head banged off the frozen turf, and as he lay on his back at midfield, the ball was scooped up by Pittsburgh's Will Allen and returned 49 yards to set up a touchdown for the Steelers. Gay was not penalized.

The play swung the game, and perhaps Cleveland's season as Campbell, who is following the NFL's protocol on head injuries, will miss Sunday's game against Jacksonville.

Gay was assessed a $15,750 fine on Friday for ''unnecessary roughness.'' According to a league spokesman, Gay was punished because he ''unnecessarily delivered a forcible blow to his opponent's head and neck area.''

Too little, too late for the Browns.

While the fine on Gay is an indirect acknowledgment by the league that the officials missed the call, it does nothing for the Browns (4-7), who were beaten 27-11 by the Steelers and had their playoff hopes severely damaged.

With the emphasis on head injuries and player protection, Browns Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas would favor a tweak to the instant-replay system to include hits to the helmet.

''I know there's two officials that sit in the booth and are watching the game, and it would be nice to have them be able to review those type of plays,'' Thomas said. ''They're turning out to be as big of a momentum swing, as big of a play in the game, as a turnover or a touchdown, and those are automatic because the NFL has said those plays are so important that we need to automatically review them.

''But a potential 15-yard penalty or a fumble returned for almost a touchdown, that's a humongous play in the game.''

Browns coach Rob Chudzinksi argued for a penalty during the game, but was told Campbell was hit in the shoulder.

Turner, an NFL head coach for 15 seasons and in the league since 1985, said his initial reaction was that Campbell had been hit in the head, and every replay confirmed his instincts.

''I thought he got hit in the face mask right from the beginning,'' Turner said, ''and then obviously you see the replay and it's really easy to see from all the angles except the one that the referee had - he's standing behind.''

If Gay had been penalized, the Browns, trailing 13-3 at the time, would have had a first down at Pittsburgh's 24. Instead, after the sack, fumble and return, the Steelers had the ball at the Browns 4 and scored on the following play.

Thomas referenced the recent violent hit by San Francisco's Ahmad Brooks on New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees as an instance when officials got the call correct. But in situations when there's any uncertainty, Thomas said there should be a way for officials in the booth to make sure an error isn't made on hits to the head of any player.

''You would still like to have them at least look at it and have the option to buzz down to the ref and say, 'you missed it' or 'you got it wrong, and it should have been a penalty,''' Thomas said. ''Those plays are happening so quickly, especially the helmet-to-the-head-area on receivers and stuff. Those plays are happening so fast and it's almost impossible to tell where the receivers' getting hit because if he's getting hit in the body or the shoulder his head is going to snap the same way, and the difference between a penalty and not a penalty is so small and yet it's such a big play in the game.

''It would be nice to at least have them have the ability from upstairs to buzz down to take another look at it or tell them they missed it or tell them it needs to be changed or whatever.''

NOTES: Chudzinski said Campbell is feeling better and that the QB does not have broken ribs. Campbell bruised his ribs on Nov. 3 against Baltimore and aggravated the injury against the Steelers. ... Rookie ILB Darius Eubanks will make his first start Sunday with both Craig Robertson (knee) and Tank Carder (shoulder) expected to sit.

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