TAMPA — According to the league office, the umpire in the Bucs-Saints game Sunday heard Tampa Bay LB Mason Foster yell "Huh, huh!' just before the snap on a 51-yard field goal attempt by Garrett Hartley.
The Bucs insist Foster said, "Move!" and that they did not deserve an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which sustained a Saints drive that resulted in a touchdown and a 14-point lead. The Bucs lost 35-28.
GM Mark Dominik said he spoke Tuesday 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 Sept. 30 against the Washington Redskins several weeks ago when Billy Cundiff missed a 57-yard field goal. Foster said he didn't use any word that could be interpreted as creating a false start, but Dominik said unlike the Washington example, they don't have an audio transcript to prove it. Dominik said some reasons to use the play are to force a false start or put linemen in better position to block a kick.
"The reason why we do the play — this is not a play (coach) Greg (Schiano) 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," Dominik said. "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."
Schiano has become a storyline around the league for some unconventional plays, including attacking during the Giants kneeldown in Week 2.
"I'm not amused. But I think it comes with the territory," Schiano said. "We're not afraid to do what we think is right. Maybe it's a little different than what's been done."
TALL TASK: The Bucs' biggest challenge Thursday will be stopping Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, a physically gifted, violent runner who is tied for third in the league in rushing (652 yards).
Peterson appears to have not lost a step despite tearing his left ACL and MCL in December.
"He's a freak of nature," Vikings QB Christian Ponder said.
Schiano said Peterson, a four-time Pro Bowl player, is "as good as they get," and the 6-foot-1, 217-pounder "runs with an attitude."
"He's one of a kind," DT Roy Miller said. "Not too many running backs can run past you, and run through you, juke you — there's not too many guys that have it all. He's such a big back, when he breaks through the line, you watch on film and a lot of the corners and the secondary, they get scared to tackle and they don't know what to do. We're just going to have to help out and slow him down before he gets to the second level."
SECOND GUESS: Sheridan acknowledged that, in hindsight, using only a three-man rush on some third downs against Saints QB Drew Brees backfired.
"We weren't able to pressure him well enough with three where he was going to throw on timing," Sheridan said. "In my mind, it's easy to say this after the fact, when he felt it was a three-man rush, he held onto the ball and waited for the downfield routes to get open. And even though we had eight guys back and the windows were very, very small, he still fired it in there, hit some 10-, 15-yard hits. Shoulda, coulda, woulda thrown the house at him and at least the ball is going to come out sooner."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]