The NFL has clarified the rule that cost the Cowboys 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct for having 12 men in the huddle during their playoff loss to the Packers. The league’s senior vice president of officiating said Thursday that the referee now will issue a warning for a first offense.
“We did discuss it,” Dean Blandino said on a competition committee conference call. “Obviously that’s a penalty you don’t see very frequently. We looked at some of the language in the book, and we’re going to give our officials more latitude to warn the team if they feel it is a potential issue and then penalize after a warning. So there’s language in the book that allows for a change in a coaching decision where a player or a group of players may come on the field and there’s a change in the decision and they go off the field without participating in a play. We want to maintain a team’s ability to do that. So we did discuss it and looked at the language, and we feel comfortable with the referee giving a warning if he feels that the team is trying to manipulate the situation, allowing the defense to match up in that situation and only penalizing if it’s a subsequent act after a warning.”
The Cowboys faced a second-and-five from the Green Bay 37 on their second possession of the divisional playoff game when Dak Prescott completed a 22-yard pass to Terrance Williams. But two officials threw flags, including referee Tony Corrente, negating the gain and stepping off a 15-yard penalty on Butler.
Butler first entered the huddle but then was replaced by fullback Keith Smith.
Officials rarely call the penalty, though Blandino has said Corrente properly applied the rule.
The penalty last was called in 2014 when Corrente flagged the Redskins for the same infraction in a game against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Logan Paulsen was cited for entering and then leaving the huddle, and Washington was penalized 15 yards after a Colt McCoy incompletion.