October 17, 2011
The message from former NFL official Jim Tunney to the officiating crew for Monday night's Jets vs. Dolphins game: treat it like any other game. Chances are, though, that no other Week 6 game featured a player threatening to get himself kicked out by the second quarter of the game.
This past Thursday, Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall(notes) told the media he planned on playing like a "maniac." With his stated goal to "get kicked out after the second quarter," Marshall vowed everything from punching Bart Scott(notes) and Antonio Cromartie(notes) to throwing the ball into the stands. For Tunney, it wasn't anything that would change his approach to the game or preparation.
"Treat it like any other game, don't give it any heed. If you do and you focus in on it, then you're likely to miss other things — other calls you should be making," Tunney told Yahoo! Sports. "Something like that, it's just talk hopefully. Players will do that and it is mainly talk. If it's not, then you're going to see it anyway if you're doing your job as a referee properly and then you call it. But you can't give it more attention than any other part of the game."
In his three decades in the league, which included officiating three Super Bowls, Tunney has had to deal with his fair share of statements such as this leading up to games. Never once, he says, did he have to focus more attention on the player or players involved in the trash talk. But because of the statements, Tunney said that common protocol involves the NFL's officiating supervisors notifying the crew of the remarks so as to make them aware of the possibilities of the player threats involved.
But at no point does the NFL ever ask the referees to focus in on a possible infringement more than anything else that might go on in the game. Tunney also said that when the officials talk before the game, they won't specifically discuss something like Marshall's comments in anything more than passing. This same standard also includes contact with the players involved.
"You don't talk to the player about it, you definitely don't do that. You don't give it credibility because you don't want him feeling like he wants to act on it," Tunney said. "It has no place in the sport. All this talk about hatred, there is no place for it."
Marshall has been public in his battle with borderline personality disorder and the Jets seemed to give little more than a shrug at the outburst. Tunney says that for him, the kind of comments Marshall made should be flagged as obnoxious and nothing more.
"It is an unfortunate part of the game that the players feel they need to talk like this," Tunney said. "I guess it gets them commercials and attention. That's all they want from this. It isn't enough to play the game anymore, now you have to talk like this."
Kristian R. Dyer covers the NFL and can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer
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