The NFL’s senior vice president of officiating confirmed in his weekly video that referee Tony Corrente correctly called a 15-yard penalty on the Cowboys for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Cowboys faced a second-and-five from the Green Bay 37 on their second possession when Dak Prescott completed a 22-yard pass to Terrance Williams. But two officials threw flags, 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.
“The rule is pretty straight forward in terms of the way it reads,” Dean Blandino said. “It says an offensive substitute who moves onto the field inside the numbers and leaves without participating in one play, that’s a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct. There’s a second part of the rule that talks about coming into the huddle and communicating with a teammate and then leaving, but really once the player is inside the numbers and then leaves and doesn’t participate, that’s going to be a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“We’re talking about a player who wasn’t in the game on the previous play. This is a substitute coming into the game. The theory behind the rule is to prevent the offense from simulating substitutions to confuse the defense – to run players in and out and now the defense isn’t sure or they get caught with the wrong personnel in the game.”
Blandino said the referee does have some “discretion,” with the rule allowing for a team to decide to go for it on fourth down after already sending out the special teams unit.
“Let’s say it’s fourth-and-short, and the team brings the punting unit out and then the punting unit runs out without participating in a play, and they bring the offense back in,” Blandino said. “That’s not a penalty. The rule allows for that, but we are going to let the defense match up in that situation.”
The penalty last was called in 2008 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.