TAMPA — In the case of a critical penalty called against the Bucs on Sunday, actions did not speak as loudly as words.
The NFL clarified its position Monday on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Bucs in their 35-28 loss to the Saints.
The league agreed with Bucs coach Greg Schiano that the defensive line shift before the snap on a 51-yard field goal attempt by Saints kicker Garrett Hartley was legal.
But it ruled that the words used by linebacker Mason Foster to order the shift were not.
"Tampa Bay was penalized yesterday for unsportsmanlike conduct for using disconcerting signals, defined as 'words designed to disconcert an offensive team at the snap,' in Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 of the NFL rule book," league spokesman Jon Zimmer said.
Two officials signaled a false start on the Saints, but referee Jerome Boger ruled the Bucs were guilty of using disconcerting signals and penalized them 15 yards. The Saints went on to complete a 95-yard drive for a touchdown and a 35-21 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Bucs said Foster approached the defensive line and yelled, "Move!'
Saints guard Jahri Evans said officials were alerted before the play about a possible attempt to create a false start.
"I think that's just what (the Bucs are) being taught," Evans said. "And that's what we told the refs, they can't try to draw us offsides in that situation or in any part of the game.
"I haven't seen that in a long time. I played Division II, and they didn't even do that in DII. It was definitely done to draw us offsides, and we all knew it."
Saints defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis said he had not seen that play run in the NFL.
"I haven't seen it in the pros because it's against the rules," Ellis said. "You're allowed to do your shifts, but you're not allowed to yell to try to get the offense to go offsides."
Schiano has said the special teams maneuver is a "legal play'' the Bucs used a few weeks ago against the Redskins. On that play, Redskins kicker Billy Cundiff was short on a 57-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the first half.
But given the subjective nature of the call, Schiano indicated it might be removed from the game plan.
Schiano was asked Monday about confusion over the ruling.
"You can add me to the list," he said. "Quite frankly, it's a legal play. We've done it before. We did it in the Washington game right there before the half. Exact same thing. One time we went left to right; the other time we went right to left.
"I'm not quite sure, but I'm not going to get into (officiating). I know what we do, and I feel very comfortable with it. Now, the fact of the matter is that it got called Sunday, so I don't know if you should be looking for that (play) very much anymore because that would be downright stubborn, right? But as far as I'm concerned, that's a legal play."
The play has Foster approaching the line of scrimmage quickly just before the snap and yelling a one-word order as the defensive line shifts from left to right. Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 of the rule book says teams cannot use "acts or words … designed to disconcert an offensive team at the snap."
After the shift against the Saints, the Bucs appeared to have a player lined up directly over the long snapper, which also is not allowed.
"When you look at field goal rushes and punt rushes, they're always very close," Schiano said. "Can it be called? … I'm not in there right where the guy is, and he's got a better view, so I leave that up him.
"If we did, if we even make it close, that's out fault. We've got to make sure that we don't even make it close and that we're in legal alignment."