October 21, 2011
The Pittsburgh Steelers star left Sunday's game with concussion-like symptoms after he made a crucial tackle of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew(notes). Given his prior history with the brain injuries, there was added reason for concern. After Polamalu was assessed by doctors on the sideline, Polamalu borrowed one of their cell phones to call his wife and let her know he was doing fine.
That call ended up costing him $10,000.
The NFL fined Polamalu on Friday for having a cell phone on the field during the game. It's against NFL rules to have cell phones or electronic equipment near bench areas from 90 minutes before kickoff through the end of the game. Polamalu clearly was in violation with his mid-game phone call.
Why can't common sense prevail, though? As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said earlier this week, "He wasn't checking his bank account." He wasn't pumping in Kanye on his iPod or plugging Head & Shoulders or drawing attention to himself like Joe Horn or tweeting to fans about the game. Polamalu called his wife to let her know that he didn't suffer a potentially life-altering injury.
The NFL likes to hide behind its rules, as if they're immovable decrees set up on high rather than arbitrary regulations written by the league itself every offseason. It's easier to fine Polamalu and insincerely claim "our hands are tied" rather than view every situation separately and judge them on their merits.
It's as if the league thinks that letting Polamalu get by without a fine is going to lead to a cell phone revolution on the sidelines. "If we let Troy call his wife, what's to stop Tony Romo(notes) from calling his the next time he gets hurt." The league isn't wrong to want to police the sideline from electronics. It's a situation wrought with potential issues. The problem is that the NFL believes making an exception for Polamalu would undercut its own rules.
Nonsense. Despite what the NFL would like you to believe, discipline isn't always the answer. Release a statement saying that cell phone use is illegal and will draw a fine in the future but, in this one particular circumstance, Polamalu won't receive a fine due to extenuating circumstances. Calming a worried wife deserves the benefit of the doubt.
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