NFL says umpire heard "Huh, huh!' to warrant penalty, Bucs claim the call was 'move!'
The umpire in the Bucs-Saints game last Sunday heard Tampa Bay linebacker Mason Foster yell "Huh, huh!' just prior to the snap of a 51-yard field goal attempt by place-kicker Garrett Hartley.
But the Bucs insist that Foster said, "Move!,' and the team should not have been given an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which sustained a Saints drive that resulted in a touchdown and a 14-point lead. The Bucs lost the game 35-28.
General manager Mark Dominik said he spoke with the league's director of officials Carl Johnson, who told him all the defensive line shifts, and Foster's movement, was legal. But Johnson said umpire Tony Michalek said he heard disconcerting words -- "Huh, huh,' -- at the snap, resulting in the penalty.
It's the same line shift the Bucs used on the final play of the first half against the Washington Redskins several weeks ago when kicker Billy Cundiff missed a 57-yard field goal.
"I have been in contact with the league office on that (field goal defensive shift) play. Everything that we did from a defensive line point was legal,'' Dominik said Tuesday. "The shifting, that we talked about. Mason Foster, everything he did in terms of movement, is legal. Everything. The only thing that is up for discussion about why the flag was thrown was the disconcerting sound of which the league office says they heard a "Huh, huh.' That's what the umpire said he heard.
"Now, we've run the play with success before (against) Washington. It's clear we say, "move,' on that play in Washington. There's no audio transcript of the New orleans play. But at that point it was a judgement of what he thought he heard, so it's a legal play, up to the point of what does the player actually say and we coach our player to say the same thing he did in Washington. The reason why we do the play -- this is not a play Greg took from Rutgers or college -- it's a play we see at the NFL level, that we'd already had success with and that's why we did it again. But I'll let the coaching staff and the organization decide whether we see it again or use it again. But at the end of the day, it's a legal play assuming what the linebacker says to his shift or his move call. At that point, it's up to the umpire what he heard.''
Foster said Tuesday he did not use any word that could be interpreted as one to create a false start on the kicking team.
Dominik admitted that forcing a false start is among one of the reasons for running the play.
"There's a lot of different elements that could come into them...could you block it?'' Dominik said. "Could you get a false start? Those things are all part of the reason and it's just the ability to find ways to help us win.''